The impact of capital and labour availability on smallholder tree growing in Kenya
Smallholder tree cultivation and management is a common form of land-use in high potential areas of Kenya. Some practices, such as the planting of trees on field boundaries are strongly rooted in customary notions of land and tree tenure. Others, such as the planting of black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) woodlots, are more recent innovations, introduced to produce commodities for domestic and export markets. This thesis explores the historic, cultural, and economic dimensions of tree growing in Kenya, using archival and ethnographic data, land-use surveys, and results from a survey of 123 households in the upper coffee/lower tea zone of Murang'a District. The household survey was designed to explore the hypothesis that tree growing complements formal employment as a strategy for overcoming poorly operating factor markets and helps to ease land-use constraints imposed by labour migration. Tree planting is favored because of its low capital and recurrent costs and when farmers are unable to plant other more resource-intensive crops. The survey focused on households which currently maintain a black wattle woodlot and on households which operate parcels which were used for growing black wattle in 1967, but which have since been cleared and are being used for growing something else. The survey showed that woodlot growing households operate larger parcels, are older, support fewer residents, and have more non-resident relatives than other households in the survey. Woodlot growing parcels are also at a lower altitude and are more steeply sloping than other parcels. Patterns of resource allocation suggest that woodlot growing households are more risk averse. Logistic regression (logit) modeling explored causal relationships, suggesting woodlots are indeed more likely to be established as households age and as labour becomes scarce, and that woodlot clearance takes place when labour is more available to cultivate the holding.