Adoption of Best Agronomic Practices, Technical Efficiency and Profitability of Sugarcane Production among Smallholders in Malava Sub- County of Kakamega County, Kenya
Sugarcane crop (Saccharum officinarum) is one of the important industrial crops that are major employers and contributor to the Kenyan economy. Despite the importance attached to this subsector, sugarcane production is dismally performing in Kenya. In a bid to attain self-sufficiency in sugar production, Kenya has made remarkable efforts to develop the subsector. Despite efforts put up by the Government of Kenya and other stakeholders, sugarcane production still faces low productivity, comparing the expected potential yields and the actual yield. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of adoption of best agronomic practices, socioeconomic factors and factory contracted services on performance of sugarcane production in Malava Sub-county. Primary data were collected using structured questionnaires from a sample of 384 farmers through systematic random sampling and proportional sampling allocation technique. Descriptive statistics including mean, percentages and standard deviation were used to summarize socioeconomic factors, agronomic practices and factory contracted services which affect efficiency, production and profitability among smallholder sugarcane farmers. Cobb-Douglas production function was applied to analyze the effect of adoption of the best agronomic practices on production. The study applied stochastic frontier model to analyze technical efficiency and tobit regression model to explain the effect of socioeconomic factors on efficiency. One way ANOVA was applied to determine if there is a significant difference between profitability of contracted and non-contracted farmers. Gross margin was used as proxy for profitability where the effect of contracted services on gross margin among contract farmers was analyzed using multiple linear regression model. Use of improved seed-cane varieties, soil testing before planting, type of fertilizer used, harvesting at recommended time and recommended number of weeding per season were found to be positive and significantly affecting sugarcane production. The results showed that technical efficiency of sugarcane farmers ranges from almost zero to 0.9829, with mean value of 0.7069, implying that an average farmer could increase sugarcane productivity by 29.31% at the existing level of resources. Maximum likelihood estimate of technical efficiency depicted that use of fertilizer, labour, seed-cane and farm size are positive and significant at 1% level in determining technical efficiency. Tobit regression analysis showed that education, farming experience, family size, credit access and extension services were positive and significant in contributing to technical efficiency. However, age of the farmer, farm distance from home and contract engagement were negatively influencing technical efficiency. Moreover, the study showed that non-contracted farmers are more profitable than contracted farmers and that profitability between the two groups of farmers is statistically and significantly different. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that participation in contracted labour services, extension services and cash credit services have a significant effect on gross margin. Based on the results, the study recommends the need to increase awareness among smallholder farmers on soil testing to guide the type of fertilizer to apply and adoption of the recommended number of times to weed sugarcane farms in order to increase productivity. The Kenyan government should formulate policies to ensure provision of quality extension services, increased credit access and education among smallholder sugarcane farmers. The need for a review of the existing contract engagement policies among sugarcane farmers is also evident in this study.