The main objective of this thesis is to identify and analyse gender inequality in agricultural households in rural Kenya using Nyeri district as a case study. Empirical analysis, based on different economic models, establishes that gender inequality exists in agricultural households especially in male-headed households. Most decisions in Kenya regarding control of cash income, future of children, allocation and use of household resources such as labour, land, human capital resources, household spending and so on are made by males.
It is found that preference for male children has an important influence on family size in this district as well as Kenya in general. Women are found to have greater preference for male children than their male counterparts possibly because of their fear of being disinherited if they do not produce an heir for their husbands. Preference for sons is also found in the allocation of human capital resources at the household level in that the female respondents were found to have lower levels of education than their male counterparts.
Women are found to be generally less educated than men, and even those who are employed outside the household usually have to get permission from their husbands. Women who are working as hired labour in farms are found to be earning less than their male counterparts. Bargaining models were therefore found to have little explanatory power in Kenya as customary and cultural conventions have more power in determining women's socio-economic status in the household.
In the Kenyan situation, rural wives of husbands who migrate seem to be little empowered in relation to economic and family decision-making. The husband and his blood relatives tend to retain control of important economic and household decisions. Because decisions or actions by the wife often have to be delayed waiting for approval or input from the husband or his family agents, this often has negative impacts on agricultural productivity. Such wives are also constrained by their relative lack of access to agricultural extension officers, finance for farm investment and capital resources for use on their farms. The results suggest that most migrants are pushed out of rural areas, belong to the group of low-paid workers in urban areas, and send little and irregular remittances to their wives back in the rural areas. These remittances are mainly used for consumption purposes and do not contribute significantly to capital formation.
Results from an application of a Tobit model suggest that household food purchases may suffer as a consequence of increasing cash cropping in Kenya. Husbands favour commercial crops and, it seems, favour non-food purchases. Married women living with their husbands use proportionately less of their gross income to purchase food compared to unmarried women and to those women not living with their husbands. Male bias in food purchases is present and is exacerbated when payment for cash crops is lumpy. Lumpy cash payments tend to reduce proportionate food purchases by households. The size of remittances and family size were found to be positively associated with food purchases as a proportion of gross income.
Cash cropping is found to have a negative influence on per capita food availability in the male-headed households. This negative influence is not apparent in the female-headed households and in fact, per capita food availability may rise with increased commercialisation of agriculture in female-headed households. Households of married women seem to suffer more in terms of reduced food availability than households headed by females as farms become more commercialised. Husbands usually have control over cash income and therefore, influence food purchases. They are less likely to use the cash for food purchases than wives. They have the tendency to spend the cash on themselves, thus reducing food availability for family members. Because of household food availability issues, there is a case in many developing countries for reducing policy emphasis on expansion of production of non-food cash crops and a case for greater encouragement of subsistence food production. Increased commercialisation of agriculture can result in reduced availability of food to women and children. This suggests that in patriarchal societies, caution should be displayed in encouraging cash cropping especially in male-headed households. Cash cropping in such circumstances is unwise from both a food availability and food security point of view.