This study focused on the effects of income diversification strategies on female headed household livelihoods in Ilima division of Makueni County, Kenya. Culturally, it is the responsibility of every female head to have a sustainable livelihood for her household. However, environmental changes have put pressure on natural resource base; a condition that has destabilized the sustainability of the female headed household livelihoods in Ilima Division. This occasioned the need for an examination of the livelihood strategies adopted by female headed households to improve their living standards. The specific objectives of the study included; to determine the livelihood strategies adopted by female heads, to establish the challenges limiting the adoption of the livelihood strategies, to establish the support mechanisms facilitating the adoption of the livelihood strategies and to ascertain the livelihood changes realized through diversification of income by female headed households. The study was informed by rational choice theory (RCT) which explained the actions and decisions chosen by female heads in relation to the livelihood strategies while sustainable livelihood approach model (SLA) expounded on gender power relations linked to accessibility of livelihood capital. The study used a multi stage sampling procedure to obtain 153 respondents from a target population of 1531 and an additional 15 key informants who were purposively identified and interviewed to provide information on the livelihoods of female headed households. Data was collected through interview schedules, focus group discussions and questionnaires and was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Data was analyzed using statistical tools with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 22 for windows. The analyzed data was presented by use of tables and graphs. The study revealed micro business and intensified subsistence farming as the most adopted strategies by female headed households. Traditional and cultural practices have been challenges to the female heads while infrastructure and social networks were found to be the most supportive mechanisms to these female heads. The study recommends that female heads should form women groups that should make good monitory contributions and lend the money to group members to use it as capital for their business which is a strategy to improve their livelihoods. It advocates for a government policy on free education for the girl child in all levels to mainstream gender equality and equity. The study also advocates that the government should put in place adequate policies and support structures that can avert the problems facing the livelihoods of female headed households in rural areas.

Background of the Study
The number of female-headed households is increasing due to natural attrition, family conflicts and male negligence of family duties which include migrating to cities. This phenomenon has profound and far-reaching effects on female headed household’s ability to cater for their daily needs. This situation has made the affected FHH to opt for different income diversification strategies so as to support their households. These income diversification strategies are employed out of necessity since the farm income is not enough to sustain the FH households (Aliber, 2009).

Female head’s income has been affected by changes in market demand, technology and environment due to limited access to social and economic assets. In Latin America, female heads contribute between 30 to 40% of total household income, Peruvian female headed households contribute 51% of the net income and in Mexico off-farm activities of female heads generate more than half of the household incomes. In sub-Saharan Africa, female headed family’s reliance on agriculture tends to diminish continuously due to unreliable rainfall and over utilization of land. This situation has made life hard for the FHH as it is not sufficient to cushion the escalating cost of living (Christiansen & Subbarao, 2005). The more diverse the income portfolio for these women; the better-offs for their households. In Ethiopia, substantial resources have been spent on research and extension on how female heads can be agriculturally empowered to cater for household needs although critics still argue that there is an urgent need to focus on off-farm activities for this group of women (Yigremew, 2006).

In view of these outstanding issues, various empirical studies have pinpointed that Female headed households are living alongside male headed households though their struggle for getting a livelihood is different. This means that households are not the same everywhere, because their structure is dependent upon social context since they are a sub-system of wider social relations and realities (Pratt, 2006). In Kenya, female headed households in rural areas are faced with severe constraints due to limited access to assets that facilitate income diversification. Several challenges emanating from different pressures on the natural resource base make the female headed households to diversify into non-farm activities to get an income for their household. Despite the marginal position of the female heads in the society, their role is very important as their contribution on-farm and off-farm activities are paramount in relation to rural development (Lay, Mahmood & M’Mukaria 2008).

Female headed households are typically endowed with varying amounts, different types of resources as well as capabilities that equip them to respond to change and opportunities differently from male headed households. Agriculture is no longer considered as women’s major source of livelihood due to climate change and this has challenged female heads to look for alternative means of survival. Kenya’s vision twenty–thirty and African union acknowledges empowerment of women in relation to development. Consequently, the Kenyan constitution recognizes female inheritance of property but many of them are still discriminated or are ignorant of this policy. However, it has been concluded that the current government policy on land redistribution inheritance contributes to the creation of more female headed households (World Bank, 2010).

Diversification does not have an equalizing effect on household overall income because better- off families are typically able to meet their domestic needs in more favorable and specialized labor markets than poor rural families. Total income and the share of income derived from non- farm sources by female heads are often positively correlated (Rogan, 2012). However, the livelihoods of FHH are not influenced by material conditions but also factors which include physical weakness, social isolation, vulnerability and powerlessness. This raises the issue of the diversification of strategies by FHH livelihoods as well as their sustainability per household.

Statement of the Problem
In Ilima Division, female heads play a big role in household responsibilities which include access and preparation of food for their families. This makes them desire to have their household’s livelihood stable throughout the year. Nevertheless, the household livelihoods of these female headed households are unsustainable due to different factors. Changes in the environment have caused problems that have put pressure on natural resource base. Consequently, female household heads, in particular have faced different constraints based on their unique position in the household including their responsibility to generate income for their households as well as doing reproductive work. Although these households are living alongside male headed households, they have a higher dependency burden than their male-headed counterparts since livelihood choices are compromised by gender differences. This worsens their status in rural and remote areas which is creating a great concern to the society at large. The assumption that women must provide for their families probes the desire to investigate the effects of income diversification strategies on female headed household livelihoods in the rural areas of which no similar study had been carried out in Ilima Division. This prompted the need for the present study.

Objectives of the Study
Broad Objective
The broad objective of the study was to examine the effects of income diversification strategies on female headed household livelihoods in Ilima Division, Makueni County, Kenya

Specific Objectives
The study aimed to achieve the following specific objectives:

i. To determine livelihood strategies adopted by female household heads to improve their household livelihood in Ilima Division.

ii. To establish the challenges limiting female household heads from adopting livelihood strategies meant to improve their livelihoods in Ilima Division.

iii. To establish the support mechanisms influencing adoption of livelihood strategies meant to improve household livelihoods of female headed households in Ilima Division.

iv. To establish the livelihood changes realized through adoption of income diversification strategies by female household heads in Ilima Division.

Research Questions
To achieve the objectives, the following research questions were generated:
i. What are the livelihood strategies adopted by female household heads to improve their household livelihoods in Ilima Division?

ii. Which challenges limit female household heads from adopting livelihood strategies meant to improve their household livelihoods in Ilima Division?

iii. What support mechanisms influence adoption of livelihood strategies meant to improve their household livelihoods of female headed households in Ilima Division?

iv. Which livelihood changes are realized through adoption of income diversification strategies by female household heads in Ilima Division?

Justification of the Study
Makueni County is classified as ASAL, a condition that poses challenges to every household’s livelihood in terms of economic production. This has intensified the burden placed on female heads in managing household livelihoods due to the limited and unreliable income resources (Djurfeldt Jirstrom & Andersson, 2013). However, there is a remarkable tendency of the FHH engagement on multiple occupations to get a livelihood for their household as indicated by ADB, (2007). Examining the struggles female heads go through in relation to their household livelihoods especially at a time when development has been shifted to the rural areas through the county governments was very necessary for this study. The study hopes to open the minds of the female household heads to embrace more of the strategies that have high returns for an increased income for their households. The success of governance structures will depend on eradication of extreme deficiency of basic needs experienced by vulnerable groups such as females who have families and have no support from male partners. The study has made recommendations that will guide policy makers in empowering female household heads to be aggressive in securing a livelihood for their households through diversification of their income. This study noted that despite the existence of policies that are meant to safeguard women in general, there were no efforts made towards their implementation and so the FHs were left with no option other than strategizing on how to get a livelihood for their households. The study has recommended for the full implementation of these policies alongside other policies that the government should put in place so as to take care of these vulnerable groups and bridge the economic gap that exists between FHH and MHH in rural areas especially in Makueni. The study also recommends that the government should create awareness to women and the society in general about the constitutional and legal rights of women which could lead to their involvement in development that can sustain their household livelihoods. However, little has been done on the effects of the income diversification strategies on female headed household livelihoods in Ilima division. This formed the basis of the current study.

Scope and Limitation of the Study
The current study limited itself to the effects of income diversification strategies employed by female headed households in Ilima division of Makueni County, Kenya. The current study confined itself to female household heads and the key informants as its primary respondents. The study also used documented records available on effects of income diversification on female headed households as its secondary sources of information. Income diversification activities employed by female heads were casual waged labor, micro business and intensified subsistence farming. The challenges facing the FHs were women roles, cultural practices, inequality in resource accessibility and absence of male partner. The FHs were also supported by financial empowerment, infrastructure, formal education and social networks.

The study focused on gainful casual labor, income generating activities related to micro business, collective action/welfare groups in support of the female heads during execution of the income diversification strategies. Although Ilima division is densely populated with a population density of approximately 400 persons per square kilometer, the female heads respondents were not located in one place and so data collection was laborious. This study deployed some measures to contain the anticipated limitations arising from this. The study identified and utilized one field assistant to collect data from the respondents who were in different locations. The topic under investigation was sensitive and so some respondents were not willing to cooperate. To make them comfortable in answering the interview questions, the purpose of the study was explained clearly and the letters from both NACOSTI and Graduate school were shown to them for clarity.

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