Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Department of Economic and Technological Change, Germany
Many attempts have been made to analyse the economic and social situation of women. With regard to rural areas and farming, discussion often focuses on female headed households (FHH). While investigating the links between FHHs and farming, empirical studies often find that FHHs face a wide array of disadvantages in obtaining agricultural inputs on the market. But closer inspection reveals that one can find several patterns of FHHs which do not necessarily share the same set of constraints. Qualitative findings from Sub-Saharan African Countries show that out-migrated husbands often leave their wives with low decision making competence thus lowering farming efficiency. Hence, out-migration of husbands forms a temporary FHH which might not be comparable to FHHs that evolved from divorce or spouse's death where no husband dictates decisions. Two major questions are emerging: (i) Is it possible to distinguish between several patterns of FHHs and do different categories show a different performance? (ii) Which role do men play?
Using data from the Kenyan Welfare Monitoring Survey III one can distinguish between four FHH categories: 1. `True' FHHs, where there is no husband at all. 2. Married monogamous FHHs where the husband is temporarily absent. 3. FHHs as part of polygamous household compounds. 4. Married monogamous FHHs where the husband is present. After estimating a set of demand functions for agricultural inputs, the results show that it is not possible to aggregate all four categories into a single one, since all different classes show substantially different performances. FHHs which are part of a polygamous household compound and FHHs with a present husband have substantially less problems to obtain inputs on the market. Subsuming all categories under one single category would heavily bias the estimated parameters. The results suggest that policies aiming at improving the situation of FHHs should consider their particular circumstances.
Keywords: Agriculture, female headed households, input demand, Kenya