Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - ValueSeC Project

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Thaer-Institute | ValueSeC Project | Documentation | Impressions from the German-Kenyan study project in 2015 | Horticulture in the Mt. Kenya Region – Dynamics and Challenges in the Context of Globalization.

Horticulture in the Mt. Kenya Region – Dynamics and Challenges in the Context of Globalization.

Experiences of an Intercultural Study Project
From November 2014 to March 2015, an intercultural study project was conducted by the partner institutions Karatina University (KarU), the Humboldt-University of Berlin (HUB), the University of Cologne (UoC), and the University of Vechta. It was partly realized as a staff and student exchange activity of the Value Chain Development for Food Security in the Context of Climate Change project (ValueSec) which is co-financed by the ACP-EU Cooperation Programme in Higher Education (EDULINK II). The overall goals of ValueSec are:
  • to strengthen the capacity of higher education in Kenya (and Ethiopia) to cope with issues of food security, poverty reduction and climate change adaption/ mitigation in the area of food value chains;
  • to sustainably foster the development of inter-institutional linkages networking and academic partnerships among higher education institutions (HEIs) within Eastern Africa as well as with European HEIs.
The main foci of the study project were to research the impact of horticultural export-orientation, climate change and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) on food security, land use patterns and agricultural practices of small-scale farmers in the Mt. Kenya Region (see Figure 1). According to this, the objectives of the students participating in the project were to gain knowledge of value chain analysis, the challenges of rural areas in the context of globalization and climate change and to develop theory-based research questions to carry out individual research projects. The collaboration in international teams aimed to promote flexible and independent learning, develop communicative and problem-solving competences, and especially build teamwork and intercultural skills. This report is the outcome of the joint research and learning processes and will be shared with all value chain stakeholders who participated in the project.
In East Africa, the majority of the poor lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihoods (IFAD 2011). Within the scientific development discourse, export-oriented production is seen as an important strategy to mitigate food insecurity of the rural poor and foster development in the global South (WINTERS 2000, HERTEL et al. 2007). The most supporting argument for this strategy is increased income either directly through the shift from food to cash crop production or indirectly through economic growth in general (BRIGHAM 2011). More critical voices point out the risk that the dominance of capital-intensive large-scale farms might exclude less capitalized producers and, hence, inhibit a trickle-down effect (ESKOLA 2005, BERNHOLZ 2007). Furthermore, it is argued that the use of scarce resources for cash instead of food crop production may decrease food availability in domestic markets and increase exposure to volatile world market prices and other external shocks (WILSHAW 2013).
In Kenya, agriculture accounts for about 30 per cent of the gross domestic product (WB 2014); about 70 per cent of Kenya's crop production is generated by small-scale farmers (WILSHAW 2013, p. 40). Comprising about more than one third of the Kenyan AgGDP, horticulture is one of Kenya's most dynamic agricultural sub-sectors (MOA 2013). Due to its professional large- and small-scale production and marketing structures, the Mount Kenya Region plays a crucial role for export horticulture (DANNENBERG & NDURU 2015, MITHÖFER et al. 2008) and is consequently referred to as a "success story of African regional development" (DOLAN & SUTHERLAND2002, p. 1). Even though production difficulties for smallholdings are numerous, export horticultural farmers have achieved higher turnovers and a rise in living standards in recent decades (MCCULLOCH & OTA 2002). Most of these farmers have started to use ICTs like mobile phones and the internet not only to access valuable information concerning export production, but also to transfer money over distance (AKER & MBITI 2010). The rapid increase of mobile phone subscriptions in Kenya is symptomatic of the whole Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, even though Kenya leads in ICT use (MURPHY 2013, BAUMÜLLER 2012). The percentage of the population with access to mobile phones increased from 10 per cent in 2000 to 90 per cent in 2013 in the SSA region (ITU 2014, p. 2). Even in rural areas, a large number of people own and use mobile phones due to improved accessibility, coverage and affordability (PFAFF 2010). Advances in ICTs have reduced geographical distances enabling instant contact between consumers and producers in rural areas (KRONE et al. 2015).
At the same time, the Mt. Kenya Region is facing an increased population pressure as well as changes in mean temperature and rainfall patterns (IFPRI 2013). This impacts on growing seasons, crop yields and food prices and, hence, the risk of hunger (PARRY et al. 2004). Especially small-scale farmers are vulnerable to climate variability and change as well as external shocks like the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and the resulting closure of the airspace over destination markets in Europe in 2010 and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport fire in Nairobi in 2013. Against this background, the issues of food analyzed.
The study project group consisted of 14 students and 4 PhD candidates from Karatina University, 8 students from Humboldt-University, 9 from the University of Cologne, 2 students from the University of Vechta and teaching staff from all four universities. The project started in November 2014 with seminars held in Cologne and Karatina to prepare for joint field work in March 2015 (14.3-26.3.2105) in the Mt. Kenya Region, Limuru and Nairobi. The two-week study trip was divided into two phases: The first phase kicked off with a 3-day introductory and team-building session at Karatina University. Next, to get everyone up to speed, there were general lectures on value chains and the horticultural sector in Kenya. The German students also had the chance to participate in a Kiswahili lesson.
Students then prepared their research design in small international teams and presented it in a plenary discussion. Appropriate methods had to be chosen according to the subject of investigation as well as (at least for the German students) the limiting aspects of language (i.e., the need for translation) and doing research in a large group context. Methods included a standardized questionnaire (see appendix 2), semi-structured qualitative interviews or structured group discussions. In the following reports, the methods will be elaborated in detail.
The second phase consisted of nine days’ field research in the Mt. Kenya Region, Limuru and Nairobi. During the field trip, the students conducted interviews with stakeholders along the value chain with a special focus on small-scale farmers. Several farmer cooperatives and individual smallholders producing for the export and domestic market were interviewed at farm level in different ecological zones (see map, p. 14). Furthermore, the group visited KHE (in Mwea) and the fresh fruit and vegetable (FFV) exporter Instaveg (in Embu) and got insights into packaging facilities. During visits at KALRO (in Embu), HCD Headquater (in Nairobi), and local offices (in Meru and Limuru) and the MoA district offices (in Meru, Naro Moru, and Limuru), the students carried out group discussions with experts and different stakeholders.
At the end of every research day, everyone got together to share, discuss and analyse experiences, insights and challenges. These sessions were not only to discuss scientific content, but also to exchange intercultural experiences. In the following section, the research results of the different research projects will be briefly summarized.
Based on the concept of situated knowledge (HARAWAY 1988, HARDING 1991) LIN HIERSE, ISABELLA STINGL and SIMON A. WIELAND analyse the research process of the different participants in the study project. With a problem-oriented approach they firstly work on the interactions “off the field”, while forming teams and dealing with different interests, agendas and obligations. Secondly, they examine teamwork challenges in the field, especially stressing the complex task of translation as “situative sociocultural mediation” (quoted from CARETTA 2014). Subsequently, the relation between the researchers and participants and their expectations concerning the project are reflected on, as well as the researcher’s behaviour and the question of what to give back. In order to ensure “good research”, they derive four aspects from their results that need to be considered in the conceptualization of future projects: adequate teambuilding to ensure socializing off and in the field, reciprocity, realization of realistic expectation management between researchers and participants and a sufficient time frame.
LAURA PARGEN´S report questions if integration into the horticultural export industry has a positive impact on food security of small-scale farmers in the Mt. Kenya Region. As one dimension of food security, she analyses the food access of households. Her results show that the shift to export production has a positive impact on food security in terms of improved income generation (increased reliability and amount of income). Nevertheless, water scarcity and irrigation problems in the dry season are main factors for causing food shortages and, hence, food insecurity. These insights are in line with 
AHRAH JOCHMANN ´S results of the research on the quality of access to food and coping strategies in times of food insecurity. Especially in the dry season from December to March, 70 percent of the interviewed farmers are found to eat smaller portions or to skip meals. The study of SEBASTIAN CHRISTOPH draws on the resilience of the Kenyan horticultural sector in dealing with external shocks and analyses preventative and adaptive options for individual households and local economies. Outcomes of his research are that a larger size and higher intensity of vertical and horizontal integration and capitalization of enterprises have a positive impact on the capacity to respond to shocks. Smaller and less capitalized exporters tend to pass on risks and damages to the producers. Farmers organized in producer groups and social networks tend to weather crises due to joint support better than individual farmers. None of the farmers have risk management for times of crises yet.
Due to the intensively practiced agriculture in the east of the Mt. Kenya Region, MAX WILLKOMM and BENEDICT VIERNEISEL derive information about land use change based on high spatial resolution and multi-temporal data from RapidEye satellite images. They find that deforestation is used to create new farmland which, in turn, implies that there is a high demand for farmland.
A large group of the students worked on the question in how far ICT can impact small-scale production in the horticultural sector. JULIA PÜTZ examines the use of phones and access to different types of knowledge by small-scale farmers. She finds that ICT facilitate the transmission of simple information and reduce the transaction costs of coordination, regardless of the level of education. In contrast, mobile phones are not suitable to exchange more complex information so that face-to-face meetings remain crucial for business practices. In general, her results show that knowledge exchange via mobile phones depends on various variables, which are highly context-specific. One of those variables is investigated in detail by OLIVER RÖWER who analyses the role of ICT in producer organizations. Even though he can show that simple phones are used among members of producer organizations to coordinate activities, face-to-face communication especially for complex knowledge transfer is still dominant. In line with this, ANNA WANETSCHEK and MAREEN HÜLS examine the support networks of small-scale farmers in the Mt. Kenya region by viewing the farming support networks of individuals as part of their social capital. They additionally focus on the impact of mobile communication and, hence, on mobilising this support within the farmers’ social networks. They conclude that mobile communication has an impact on the support networks of farmers mostly because it enables them to strengthen contact with already existing strong and weak ties but also by facilitating contact with new weak ties. Furthermore, JOY HEITLINGER investigates in her paper how mobile phones influence the bargaining power of small-scale farmers. She illustrates that bargaining power varies between the farmers and cannot fully be explained by phone use. However, the use of phones is mainly valuable for the contact with the buyer and the coordination of selling. Factors like the location of the farm, trust and marketing channel seem to be additional determining factors influencing bargaining power. FREDERIC BECKER, ISABELL STIEBNER, FIONA SCHUBERT and KIRA-SOPHIE SCHETTLER-KÖHLER explore in their paper the role of Mpesa in the horticultural value chain in comparison to other payment systems. They conclude that - in contrast to export value chains - Mpesa is the most common form of payment in the local value chain. Furthermore, they show that not only the power structure can affect the mode of payment, but also the extent of trust between sender and receiver. Use of Mpesa seems to be only possible if the two business partners trust each other.
As the following reports are independently written by the students taking part in the seminar, the content, literature used and conclusions drawn represent their scientific
understanding, but not necessarily the opinion of the editors. The scientific value of the report is limited as it is mainly based on the data that could be gathered during the relatively short period of the study.
The reports of the Kenyan students on the issues of climate change will be published in Karatina University Working Papers.


Go to the final report.