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Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (2018)

Sustainability of organic and non-organic smallholder farms in Kenya

Kamau Juliet Wanjiku

Titre : Sustainability of organic and non-organic smallholder farms in Kenya

Auteur : Kamau Juliet Wanjiku

Université de soutenance : Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Grade : Doktor der Agrarwissenschaften (Dr. agr.) 2018

Smallholder farms play a vital role in the quest for sustainable development, especially in sub- Saharan Africa (SSA) where livelihoods are still heavily reliant on agriculture. Current environmental and socioeconomic challenges make it necessary for agriculture to change to more sustainable production methods. Organic agriculture is rapidly increasing in the region, but there are lively debates about its sustainability, partly due to scarce and inconclusive scientific evidence. Using Kenya as a case study, this research aims to provide insights into organic agriculture as a strategy for sustainable development in SSA. To capture the complexity of smallholder farms and the diverse biophysical conditions in Kenya, data from 488 smallholder farms in two counties (Kajiado and Murang’a) were collected. A typology of five farm types was developed based on structural, functional and socio-economic aspects. The farms were categorized into : i) the wealthiest mixed organic and conventional farms, ii) wealthy certified organic farms, iii) moderately wealthy organic farms, iv) poorer conventional farms, and v) the poorest low-input-output farms. The practice of organic agriculture was linked to better access to productive assets, and higher food security and gender equity. Sustainability assessments of a selection of the farms (n=400) were conducted using the SMART-Farm Tool based on four sustainability dimensions : good governance, environmental integrity, economic resilience, and social well-being. Results indicate that the sustainability of all farms was affected by inadequate capacity development, limited support for the vulnerable, and limited social security for farmers and farm workers, as well as lack of reliable information on farm management. Certified farms had better sustainability performance than non-certified farms in terms of higher economic resilience, greater support for workers, better use and handling of agrochemicals, higher biodiversity, and better soil and water quality. However, certified farms experienced higher yield losses and were not significantly different from noncertified farms in terms of use of organic soil amendments, water use, animal husbandry practices or profitability. Farms in Murang’a were more sustainable than those in Kajiado due to better conflict resolution mechanisms, land tenure security, soil and water conservation measures, and commercial viability. Nonetheless, farms in Murang’a showed poor animal husbandry practices, manure management, and limited credit uptake and market involvement. Finally, due to the important role of agriculture as a major driver of land degradation in SSA, soil fertility and biodiversity were assessed for a subsample of 20 farms (10 per county). Soil fertility was measured through physicochemical indicators, and biodiversity was determined through crop residue decomposition and arthropod diversity. The results indicate a comparable performance of organic and non-organic farms regarding soil fertility. Higher biodiversity levels in organic farms indicate that organic agriculture practices do not reduce sustainability in Kenya but might have the potential to improve it, indicating a generally higher sustainability of organic agriculture. However, the lower performance of organic compared to non-organic farms in terms of yield losses has to be targeted through appropriate interventions like post-harvest technologies and soil amelioration. The results of this study provide a basis for informed decision-making, development and implementation of suitable and targeted interventions to address the sustainability gaps identified for each type of smallholder farms.


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