THE ROLE OF VARIETAL ATTRIBUTES ON ADOPTION OF IMPROVED SEED VARIETIES AND FARMER PARTICIPATION IN THE MARKET; THE CASE OF SMALLHOLDER SORGHUM PRODUCERS IN KENYA.
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Abstract

Approximately 82% of Kenya's landmass is categorized as arid and semi-arid. These areas are
characterized by low agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity. Majority of the people
in these areas depend on food aid and famine relief from the government and NGOs as a
livelihood option. Increasing agricultural production and productivity through growing of
drought tolerant crops provides an opportunity that can assist the communities adapt to climate
change. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in collaboration with International Crops
Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, have, over the years, developed and released more
than eight improved sorghum varieties to smallholder farmers in the arid and semi arid regions of
the country. Studies suggest that the uptake of these new varieties has been rapid. While past
studies have assessed the factors influencing adoption of improved sorghum varieties, the effect
of varietal attributes on adoption remains unknown. There is also lack of information on the role
of crop varietal attributes on farmer participation in output markets.

This study examined effect of sorghum variety attributes on adoption and the decision of farm
households to participate in output markets in Mbeere South District. A multivariate probit, a
truncated regression and a censored Tobit models were used to analyze the effect of variety
attributes on the farmers' adoption decision, intensity of adoption and influence on market
participation respectively using data collected from 140 farmers.

The results show that out of the five improved varieties of sorghum released to farmers in the
study area, only two varieties were widely adopted (Gadam and Serena). The results on the
perception of farmers variety attributes show that improved varieties had desirable production
and marketing attributes while the local varieties were perceived to have the best consumption
attributes. The results also indicate farmers supply different sorghum varieties to the market
because of the differences in the varietal traits contained in each variety.

The results of the multivariate probit regression model shows that the major sorghum attributes
driving rapid adoption are taste, drought tolerance, yield, ease of cooking and the variety's
ability to fetch a price premium. Early maturity, a major focus of research has no effect on
adoption. Among the control variables, extension visits, total household assets, off-farm income
and household size significantly affected the adoption of improved sorghum varieties. The
results of a joint hypothesis test shows that indeed variety attributes affect the likelihood of
adopting improved sorghum varieties. Result of truncated regression model indicate that farmers
consider inter alia the variety attributes of the improved varieties before deciding on the
proportion of land area to allocate under the varieties. The attributes majorly considered by

farmers in allocating land to improved seeds include; variety yields, ability to fetch a price
premium, taste and pest resistance. Among the socio economic attributes, only land size affects
the intensity of adoption. Similarly, the results of the Tobit model shows that taste, farm gate
price and brewing qualities do affect the likelihood and the extent of market participation.

The findings of the study imply that, while developing improved seed varieties, breeders should
also focus on non yield attributes like taste and ease of cooking. Secondly, it is important that
both producers and consumers of sorghum be involved in the seed evaluation process. Policies
that enhance adoption of improved seeds should also be enacted; these include investment in
education and provision of extension services. It is also important to provide market information
on prices, variety traits demanded in the market and potential markets for sorghum in order to
stimulate market participation.