A social-economic analysis of preferences for fodder legumes and information flow among farmers

Low quantities and poor quality basal diet, and lack of high quality protein feeds have been identified as the major constraints to improved milk production in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya the problem is compounded by high cost of commercial feeds that are beyond the reach of the smallholder dairy producers, resulting in farmers producing only 50% of the potential annual milk production of 4 billion litres. There have been several attempts to introduce fodder legumes in livestock production systems without success in most regions. In Kenya efforts to introduce fodder legumes started more than 2 decades ago but still a very small percentage of farmers have adopted this technology. Previous studies on adoption of these fodders have not embraced the more client-oriented approaches such as farming systems and farmer-participatory research. Much of their research has been driven by a macro-level, constraint oriented analysis that assumes a set of objectives that is not necessarily shared by any livestock producers. This study used participatory methodologies to elicit farmer preferences for fodder legume attributes. The study area consisted of Maragua, Kirinyaga, Embu and Nyeri districts of central Kenya. The sample used consisted of 130 farmers who were randomly selected from groups that had been provided with Calliandra by System-wide Livestock project (SLP) at the International Centre for Research in Agro forestry (ICRAF) and Desmodium by Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Data were collected using a conjoint analysis survey instrument and a structured questionnaire. This data set was used to evaluate preferences for fodder legume attributes by use of an ordered probit model. Consumer utility maximization theory underpinned the model used in the analysis. A tobit model was used to analyze factors influencing sharing out of the legume technologies from the original farmers to others outside original groups that received the technologies. The ordered probit model results showed that farmers attached high values to fodder legumes that had high dry season tolerance and high economy on land. The tobit model results showed that sharing out of fodder legumes technology from original farmers to other farmers was strongly influenced by the giving farmer being an official of a farmer group or having community responsibility. The study recommends that researchers should develop fodder legumes that are dry season resistant and have high economy on land in order to increase adoption rates in central Kenya highlands. It was also recommended that farmers who have positions in farmer groups and those with community responsibility be supported in various feasible ways like training to increase spread of the technology.