Recognizing determinants to smallholders’ market orientation and marketing arrangements : Building on a case of dairy farming in rural Kenya

Wangu, James; Mangnus, Ellen; Westen, A.C.M. van


Smallholder commercialization is central to international development policy and prac-tice. As a result, several arrangements to foster market linkages are being implemented. Especially popular are farmers’ organizations, which are believed to be owned, controlled, and financed by smallholders. As such, their design is considered inclusive given every household in a community is theoretically allowed to become a member, and the governance and management structure encourage participatory decision-making. However, even in the context in which farmers’ organizations are actively promoted, a notable proportion of smallholders may not be able to engage in market-oriented production or may opt for the existing alternative marketing arrangements, as dictated by individual households’ socioeconomic characteristics. Focusing on the case of smallholder farming in Olenguruone, Nakuru county, Kenya, where a donor funded dairy farmers’ cooperative marketing arrangement is promoted alongside existing marketing opportunities, the present research investigated the factors that determine smallholders’ commercial farming orientation and marketing arrangements. It employed a case study approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative research methods for a more complete empirical inquiry. The findings demonstrate that irrespective of the external support provided through marketing opportunities such as farmer organizations, smallholders’ engagement in commercial farming and marketing is dictated by the socioeconomic attributes and market perceptions that are heterogeneous among households in a smallholder community.