Kenyan smallholder cotton production has remained low despite the spirited effort by the government and the private sector to revive the sector. Several factors combined seem to be responsible for this perpetual low production. Among the factors are constraints ranging from, inadequate extension services, limited access to information on production and poor marketing systems. The purpose of this study was to investigate how these selected factors (cluster group extension approach, information sources and seed cotton marketing) influence cotton production among smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme. The study utilized descriptive survey research design to collect primary data from farm households on the influence of selected factors on cotton production, while secondary data was collected from Cotton Development Authority and National Irrigation Board offices in Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme. The study population was all smallholder cotton farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme. Proportionate simple random sampling method was used to select 120 farmers from 1022 cotton farmers in 11 villages within the scheme, who were included in the study. A validated questionnaire was used to collect data. The questionnaire attained reliability Coefficient of α = 0.80 at confidence level of 0.05 after it was pilot tested among 30 farmers in Galole Sub County. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data to determine association and relationships using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 20.0. The findings showed that most of the households are headed by women (54%), majority are of middle age (36-55) and a significant 27.5% lacking basic education. Most farmers (55.8% of the respondents) preferred cluster group extension approach while 71.7% obtain production information from other farmers within the Scheme. On marketing of seed cotton 60.8% of the respondents recommended the establishment of a ginnery within the Scheme as the selling price of seed cotton showed a direct relationship with the production levels. The study recommended that efforts should be made to establish the reasons behind the unacceptable low levels of education among farmers within the scheme and brokers should be regulated to avoid malpractices associated with their activities in the Scheme.

Background of the Study
Cotton is the largest revenue earning of the non-food crops produced in the world. Its production and processing provide some or all of the cash income of over 250 million people worldwide, including almost 7 percent of the available labor force in developing countries (International Cotton Advisory Committee [ICAC], 2013). These activities are becoming highly concentrated over time; today, 77 percent of global cotton output and 73 percent of the cotton hectares are accounted for by China, the United States, India, Pakistan, and the Central Asian Republics. India accounts for approximately 21 percent of the world cotton area but the average productivity of cotton is markedly low, at about 115 kilograms of lint cotton per acre compared to 240 kg per acre of world average per year (Sen, 2012).

According to ICAC (2011), cotton production faces crucial challenges such as: escalating costs of production, low cotton lint prices, inefficient pest management, stickiness, yield variability within the same location, late cotton picking, subsidies in the developed countries, diminishing production capital and competition from other crops. These obstacles diminish the benefits from continuing cotton cultivation (International Cotton Advisory Committee [ICAC], 2014). Even though the challenges are numerous, all the parties involved in cotton production are optimistic that Kenyan cotton will regain and even surpass its former position through the enhancement and implementation of site-specific and low-input technologies (Alex and Rivera, 2010). Significant improvements in institutional, policy and financial aspects must also be made in order to achieve competitiveness in the global economy (Bedi 2012). These challenges have to be taken up by the whole spectrum involved in the cotton sector, that is, researchers, extension workers, production agronomists, economists and policy makers (Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research Analysis [KIPRA], 2014).

According to ICAC (2012), poor yields from smallholder cotton in Africa have been a long standing problem that has not been greatly altered by release of new varieties or by other recommendations made on the basis of research findings and consequently there seems to be a number of problems in translating the outputs from research into the farmers‟ fields; farmers are consistently not taking up the recommendations. In response to African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the expectation of declining cotton subsidies in developed countries, a number of Sub-Sahara African countries are embarking on programmes to stimulate cotton production (Larsen, 2011). The focus is mainly on the provision of subsidized seed, fertilizer and insecticide but missing factors are both the development of sustainable integrated crop management practices and similarly sustainable mechanisms for the delivery of technical support services to the producers (ICAC, 2010). In South Africa, relatively low prices, high input costs, exchange rates, cheap import of cotton fibre and international subsidies are all factors affecting cotton production negatively (Cotton, 2013).

The Kenya‟s cotton sector performance declined substantially in the 1990‟s at the height of trade liberalization; both cotton production and the textiles garments industry suffered due to continued synthetic fibre competition, diminishing world prices, introduction of cheap imports of second hand clothes and diminished cotton profitability aggravated by inefficiencies in the production system and supply side constraints (Bedi, 2012). The decline in cotton production in the last two decades has also coincided with increase in poverty levels in areas designated as major cotton belts (Lisa and Minot, 2011). The gradual cotton decline has also affected other parts of the value chain including ginners, textile mills and manufacturers (Institute of Economic Affairs [IEA], 2013).

Cotton in Kenya is mainly grown by small-scale farmers in marginal and arid areas, on small land holdings. It is estimated that Kenya currently has 90,000 small-scale cotton farmers compared with over 200,000 farmers in the mid-1980s when the industry was at its peak (Cotton Development Authority [CODA], 2012). The Cotton Board of Kenya estimates that countrywide, 1,000,000 acres is suitable for rain-fed cotton production with the potential to produce about 260,000 bales of lint annually, and 100,000 acres for irrigated cotton with the potential to produce 108,000 bales of lint annually (Cotton Lint and Seed Board [CL&SB], 1992). However, only about 75,000 acres is currently under the crop, and the total annual lint production stands at only about 20,000 bales (CODA, 2013).

Despite these efforts, issues affecting cotton production have not been adequately addressed as most of the cotton production regions are yet to embark on its production despite the local markets available for the same (Alex and Rivera, 2010). Given that the average yield is only 500 kg/acre profitability would be greatly improved even with production at 50% of the yield potential of the commercial varieties (Wakhungu & Wafula, 2013).

Kenyan cotton is produced under both irrigated and rainfed conditions. In Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme where the study was conducted, cotton is the major crop which is grown in rotation with maize (National Irrigation Board [NIB], 2016). According to Cotton Lint and Seed Board [CL&SB] (1992), by 1985, Bura Irrigation Scheme was responsible for 45% of the total country‟s seed cotton production where on farm average production stood at 3,600 kg/acre of seed cotton and thus, the Scheme was recognized as the pillar of cotton sector in Kenya. The current average seed cotton production under irrigation stands at 1,000 kg/acre against the potentials of 4,000 kg/acre under research of the HART 89M variety (Waturu, 2014). The scheme has a total of 16,000 acres of land which has been opened up for production by National Irrigation Board and is under irrigation (NIB, 2016).

One strategy for lowering the cost of cotton production would be to increase yields, which currently stands at about 21% of the potential for the varieties grown in Kenya (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute [KARI], 2010). However, according to Cotton Development Authority [CODA] (2013), cotton production in Kenya is currently faced by constraints ranging from erratic weather patterns, weak cooperative movement, high cost of inputs, lack of rural credit, poor seed quality, inadequate extension services and inappropriate extension approaches and poor marketing systems. CODA (2013) further indicated that efforts to release a new variety of genetically modified cotton seeds to farmers has been halted by the government‟s ban on genetically modified organisms, consequently farmers have to wait a little longer to benefit from the recent break through. This study was restricted to three factors, namely cluster group extension method used to reach out to farmers, source of information about cotton farming to farmers and cotton marketing mechanisms in the Scheme.

Statement of the Problem
In spite of the potentials of cotton crop as means to eradicate poverty in arid and semi-arid areas, and promotion by the government of Kenya and other stakeholders in the industry, cotton production in the study area has remained lower than what is recommended by research. Several factors appear to influence cotton production at household level. In particular, the influence of some of these factors – cluster group supported extension method, sources of information for cotton farming, cotton marketing, might not be appreciated by the stakeholders in the cotton industry. The extent to which cluster group supported extension approach; sources of information for cotton farming and cotton marketing, influence cotton production in the study area have not been clarified. This study therefore sought to investigate and document the extent to which these factors influence cotton production in Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme.

The Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to investigate how selected factors (cluster group supported extension method, sources of information for cotton farming and cotton marketing) influence cotton production amongst smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme, Kenya.

Objectives of the Study
The study was guided by the following objectives:

i. To establish the status of cotton production in terms of yields and area by smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme of Kenya

ii. To investigate the influence of cluster group supported extension method on cotton production among smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme

iii. To investigate the influence of sources of farming information on cotton production among smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme.

iv. To investigate the influence of cotton marketing on cotton production among smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme.

Research Questions
i. What is the state of cotton production by smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme?

ii. In what ways has cluster group supported extension method influenced cotton production by smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme?

iii. What extent has sources of information on farming influenced cotton production by smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme?

iv. What extent has seed cotton marketing influenced cotton production by smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme?

Significance of the Study
The study findings provide basis for the policy makers to come up with the most relevant extension policies that could enhance cotton production in Kenya. It is also useful to policy makers in creating an enabling environment for cotton farmers to maximize on their potentials. The study provides information that could lead to successful revival of the textile industries since the major challenge currently is low cotton production. The findings of the study provide relevant information for designing and using appropriate extension methods to improve on extension service provision not only to cotton farmers but to all smallholder farmers in the country.

Scope of the Study
The study was designed to investigate the influence of cluster group supported extension method, sources of information for cotton farming and cotton marketing on cotton production among smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation Scheme, Kenya. Secondary data on cotton production was taken for 2009 to 2013.

Assumptions of the Study
i. The cotton variety used by farmers was the best and the most appropriate for the smallholder farmers in Bura Irrigation and Settlement Scheme.

ii. Erratic weather pattern would not come into play since production is under irrigation and water for irrigation is available throughout the production season.

iii. The respondents would be willing and honest enough to give correct information meaningful for analysis

The generalization of this study will be limited to areas of similar characteristics with those of the study area. There was also the challenge of insecurity in the area due to the frequent attacks by terror groups, thus farmers could have been hesitant to freely interact with the enumerators who were not familiar to them. This challenge was managed by the use of the local village administrator who accompanied the researcher during the data collection period.

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 67 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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