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African Journal of Agricultural Research Wage labor in rice cultivation areas near Lake Victoria in Western Kenya


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Rice is now the most rapidly growing food commodity in sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is mainly driven by urbanization. There is substantial research on the wage labor dynamics in rice production in Asia, but in Africa, there is limited analysis of the labor used in rice cultivation-the attributes, numbers, and costs which make it difficult to understand the actual market, such as how products are procured. This study aims to fill this gap in the research by comparing wage labor factors in two rice cultivation areas in Kenya: Awach and Ahero. The role of wage labor in farm household management as well as in the economy of the areas is considered. The results, based on two surveys, show that, at the Awach small-scale scheme, the yield was low and the cultivation area small, generating profit per household of only about one-half that of the more large-scale Ahero scheme. High wage expenses at Awach put pressure on rice farming management because, although family labor was used for rice cultivation, additional labor was required for transplanting and weeding, incurring expenses. These were covered by sales of rice in the previous year or sales of livestock. In both areas, wage laborers were mostly people residing in the same area. In the case of Ahero, the scale of the scheme itself was large, and the hired laborers were unknown. However, in Awach, there was a high rate of hiring neighbors, and thus, wage labor costs could also be understood as a source of income for people in the area. Therefore, it can be inferred, in the case of Ahero, that there is a mechanism of wage labor based on economic principles, whereas in the case of Awach, small-scale production using family labor may be less efficient, but there is an additional concern with community principles.
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Vol. 17(4), pp. 618-628, April, 2021
DOI: 10.5897/AJAR2020.15343
Article Number: 5EC493A66607
ISSN: 1991-637X
Copyright ©2021
Author(s) retain the copyright of this article
frican Journal of A
Full Length Research Paper
Wage labor in rice cultivation areas near Lake Victoria in
Western Kenya
Yuko Yamane
International Center for Agricultural Education (ICAE), Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, 464-8601,
Nagoya University, Japan.
Received 19 November, 2020; Accepted 6 April, 2021
Rice is now the most rapidly growing food commodity in sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is mainly
driven by urbanization. There is substantial research on the wage labor dynamics in rice production in
Asia, but in Africa, there is limited analysis of the labor used in rice cultivation-the attributes, numbers,
and costs which make it difficult to understand the actual market, such as how products are procured.
This study aims to fill this gap in the research by comparing wage labor factors in two rice cultivation
areas in Kenya: Awach and Ahero. The role of wage labor in farm household management as well as in
the economy of the areas is considered. The results, based on two surveys, show that, at the Awach
small-scale scheme, the yield was low and the cultivation area small, generating profit per household of
only about one-half that of the more large-scale Ahero scheme. High wage expenses at Awach put
pressure on rice farming management because, although family labor was used for rice cultivation,
additional labor was required for transplanting and weeding, incurring expenses. These were covered by
sales of rice in the previous year or sales of livestock. In both areas, wage laborers were mostly people
residing in the same area. In the case of Ahero, the scale of the scheme itself was large, and the hired
laborers were unknown. However, in Awach, there was a high rate of hiring neighbors, and thus, wage
labor costs could also be understood as a source of income for people in the area. Therefore, it can be
inferred, in the case of Ahero, that there is a mechanism of wage labor based on economic principles,
whereas in the case of Awach, small-scale production using family labor may be less efficient, but there
is an additional concern with community principles.
Key words: Rice cultivation, western Kenya, wage labor, economic principles, community principles.
Rice is the food commodity in sub-Saharan Africa with the
most rapid growth in market share. This growth is mainly
driven by urbanization. Rice consumption in Africa is
expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future, as
the proportion of the African population living in urban
areas is expected to increase from the current 38 to 48%
by 2030 (Seck et al., 2008). The domestic supply of rice
cannot keep up with the rapidly growing urban demand;
rice imports now comprise 40% of all rice consumed,
thereby putting pressure on the finances of African
countries (Saito, 2010). Furthermore, recent rises in global
grain prices have led to food insecurity for the poor; thus,
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there is an increasingly urgent need to take measures
against these problems and to increase the capacity to
expand domestic production in the medium and long terms
(Onyango, 2014). Responding to these circumstances,
rice cultivation in Africa has been targeted by the
Japanese government and other official development
assistance (ODA) projects.
Kenya, located in East Africa, is one of the main
countries targeted for rice cultivation support [Alliance for
a Green Revolution in Africa, 2008]. Most rice cultivation
in Kenya (80%) takes place under irrigated conditions,
unlike other African countries (Kabutha and Mutero, 2002;
Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2013). In
western Kenya’s Lake Victoria region, the second-largest
area for rice production in Kenya, rice is mainly cultivated
using irrigation schemes (Yamane et al., 2019). Rice is
produced using the water provided by three irrigation
schemes: Ahero, West Kano, and Bunyara. These
large-scale rice production areas were established by the
Kenyan government in the 1970s. In addition, multiple
small-scale rice cultivation areas, where rice has been
cultivated for about a century, are distributed around the
large-scale rice production areas. Rice cultivation under
irrigated conditions results in a much higher yield than that
of rain-fed paddies, if modern agricultural techniques and
varieties of rice are used (Inoue and Kumazaki, 1991;
Tokuda and Nakano, 2014). However, modern farming
techniques require more labor input (irrigation and
chemical use, such as fertilizer or pesticides,
transplanting, and preparation for transplanting) than other
cultivation styles do (Tokuda and Nakano, 2014). For rice
farmers using irrigation in Africa, employed labor is a
problem not only from the perspective of management
costs but also from the viewpoint of productivity (Yamane
et al., 2019; Tokuda and Nakano, 2014; Yamada, 1996). In
the abovementioned ODA project, the goal is to improve
the management of rice farming conducted by individual
farmers (Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2011,
2015). Labor costs comprise a high percentage of
management expenses (Yamane et al., 2019), and it is
possible to reduce rice cultivation management costs by
promoting various types of support, such as
mechanization. According to a previous report about rice
cultivation in Tanzania, the labor supply structure available
for rice farming determines whether the mechanism of
labor supplied to farmers can be explained by community
principles or economic principles (Nieru et al., 2016).
Some reports, for example, state that the introduction of
modern rice cultivation technology has caused economic
disparities in different parts of the Philippines, and that
support for rice cultivation management by local
communities merely promotes this economic structure.
There is also the potential to induce negative effects, such
as a decline in reciprocity or an expansion of the economic
gap between villagers [Hayami and Kikuchi, 2000].
The purpose of this study is to clarify the supply
structure of wage labor in two rice cultivation areas—a
Yamane 619
large-scale rice cultivation area, the Ahero irrigation
scheme (800 ha), and the small-scale Awach irrigation
scheme (about 120 ha) (Figure 1). A survey comparing the
two schemes was conducted at two survey sites over time
focusing on the following six points:
(1) Local livelihoods and household composition, (2)
agriculture other than rice cultivation in the region, (3) rice
cultivation and rice management, (4) the use of wage labor
for rice cultivation, (5) the securing of funds for wage labor,
and (6) wages earned by wage laborers after clarifying the
relationship between wage laborers and rice farmers. The
survey clarified how much money was used and how it
was used.
After that, problems with the current support content based
on the local situation and considering the differences
between regions were considered. This study clarifies the
role of wage labor for farmers and communities that
cultivate irrigated rice in Africa and considers appropriate
means of support. In this study, we examined regional
differences by comparing the two target areas and
considered the presence or absence of annual changes
over time.
The plains located near the eastern shore of Lake Victoria in
western Kenya are dotted with 11 small-scale rice cultivation areas,
called outgrower areas (covering 900 ha in total), within two
large-scale, irrigated-rice production areas that were constructed in
the 1970s. Rice cultivation in the area is mainly conducted by the
descendants of farmers from that era. Rice farming continues to
take place even in the rice-growing areas around the large-scale
irrigation areas.
In the Ahero (National Irrigation Board, NIB) and Awach irrigation
schemes, both villages grew from a group of extended families with
common paternal ancestry (Shipton, 2007); however, their structure
differed, due to the different construction histories of the two
irrigation schemes. In the large-scale Ahero scheme, farmers were
initially forced to immigrate to several specific places in the scheme
and started to cultivate rice under the strong control of the NIB.
Therefore, the indigenous Luo village structure is not observed in
the Ahero scheme. However, in 2003, a water-use association and a
revolving fund for managing the farmers’ funds were formed under
the NIB’s guidance, and farmers subsequently managed their funds
Rice cultivation in Awach began in 1945, when it was founded by
the then-colonial government, well before large-scale irrigation
facilities were established (Yamane et al., 2019). In 1986, a farmer’s
group was formed and registered with the Ministry of Social Services.
Funding of irrigation infrastructure in the area occurred via the
Provincial Irrigation Unit (Yamane et al., 2019).
To begin cultivating rice, farmers were able to obtain the funds
necessary by many means, such as selling their livestock. The
cultivation areas in both schemes are in locations populated by the
Luo people, descendants of a Nilotic pastoral tribe (Shipton, 2007).
In the Awach scheme, rice is grown by two main patrilineal families,
the Kimira and Katolo clans.
This study collected information about the history of the two target
schemes, Ahero and Awach. The information was obtained by
conducting a questionnaire survey of elderly people in each
620 Afr. J. Agric. Res.
Figure 1. Location of the study site in Kenya (a) and a map showing the distribution of rice cultivation areas
near Lake Victoria (b)
scheme, including the history of the schemes and the social
structures of the rice farmers’ villages collected in 2010, 2011, 2012,
2013, and 2015.
For 3 months in total, the authors conducted a homestay in the
house of a rice farmer in the area and observed the lives of the
farmers. Furthermore, in 2016, the authors rented rice fields in this
area, cultivated their own rice, observed the relationship between
wage laborers and employers, and collected information about rice
cultivation and management.
Two experimental rice cultivation surveys were conducted
between September 2016 and April 2017, one for each of the two
schemes. The study used a participant observation survey [Maxwell,
2012], an empirical research method commonly used in
anthropological studies, to understand how an individual’s wage
labor is secured, as well as the relationship between wage laborers
and rice farmers. Fields were rented in both the Ahero and Awach
schemes, and experimental rice cultivation was conducted. At the
Awach scheme site, the first plowing was undertaken on September
22, 2016. The site was transplanted on October 20, 2016, and
harvested on February 17, 2017. During the 150 days of the cropping
season, the authors visited the experimental fields and stayed for a
50-day observation period. In the Ahero scheme, the first plowing
was conducted in October 2016, and the transplanting and harvest
were conducted on December 24, 2016, and April 17, 2017,
Questionnaire survey of rice farmers in Ahero and Awach
The questionnaire surveys were conducted twice, in 2012 and 2015,
to collect general information about rice cultivation and farm
management in each locality. For the 2012 survey, 17 local
residents were selected, hired, and trained for three days to conduct
interviews using a questionnaire. They were then asked to visit the
rice farmers’ residential areas to conduct the interviews. Based on
the information from the surveyed households, this study analyzed
the rice cultivation situation in each scheme, such as the cultivation
area per household and the productivity of the rice farmers in 2011.
This study analyzed 76 households in both the Ahero and the
Awach schemes in 2012. Specifically, the same questionnaire
survey was conducted in 2015 among 40 rice farmers in the Ahero
scheme and 36 rice farmers in the Awach scheme to compare the
situations of different years and to add more detailed information
about wage laborers in each scheme. This study compares farmers’
approaches to rice management, including wage labor employment,
in both schemes.
Description of an account book
Household A is a general household in the Awach area and was
selected as a typical example for the estimation of income from wage
labor and how money was allocated in the household. The account
books provided information about the ratio and role of the income
obtained from rice in the household and the ratio of income from
wages obtained via rice farming to households. The wife of the head
of household A, who undertook rice cultivation in the Awach scheme,
was asked to keep a household account book for 1 year beginning on
August 1, 2017. Each day, this woman, who was born in 1956 and
lived with her husband and children recorded the household’s
expenditures and income. She provided food and supported the
household’s overall needs. This information was used to examine the
ratio of income between wage labor and the household.
Farm management and household structure in the
two schemes
Luo households tend to be grouped in a compound known
as a dala. The average number of people living in a dala
was a little higher in Ahero: 5.9 in 2012 and 4.5 in 2015
(Table 1). Since the 2015 survey was smaller than the
2012 survey, there may have been differences in
household members due to site differences within the NIB
scheme. The average size of households living in Awach
(4.3 people in 2015) was not significantly different from
that in Ahero (4.5 people in 2015). In Awach, many
households grow not only rice but also sorghum and
maize, which enable households to be self-sufficient.
However, about 40% of households in Ahero cultivate
only rice. The survey in Awach found that more than 90%
of households in the region grew three crops (rice plus
other grains). Meanwhile, households in Ahero had a
large cultivation area in 2012, at 1.02 ha, but this had
decreased to 0.65 ha in 2015 (Table 2). Meanwhile, in
Awach, the cultivation area was smaller than in Ahero, at
0.55 ha in 2012 and 0.47 ha in 2015. The area cultivated
for self-sufficiency cereals was larger in Awach, at 0.53
and 0.45 ha in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and about
double the area in Ahero (0.27 and 0.14 ha in 2012 and
2015, respectively).
While the yield of maize and sorghum harvested in
Ahero was more than 100 kg higher than that in Awach
(Table 1), the number of livestock raised was not
significantly different between the two areas. In Ahero,
each household had around 5 cattle in both 2012 and
2015, as well as 4 smaller livestock in 2012 and 2 in 2015;
meanwhile, Awach had 6.3 cattle and less than 4 small
livestock in 2015 (Table 1). The most significant
difference in household farm management between
households in Ahero and Awach in any year was the
amount of rice produced.
Rice cultivation and rice management
The paddy-field area per household in Ahero was about
double in 2012 and about 1.5 times that of Awach in 2015.
In addition, the amount of rice harvested per household in
Ahero was about triple that of Awach in both 2012 and
2015. The rice yields per ha in Ahero and Awach in 2012
were 4,560 and 3,190 kg/ha, respectively, while in 2015,
the rice yields per household in Ahero and Awach were
5,140 and 3,215 kg/ha, respectively (Table 2). Since the
yield was higher in Ahero than in Awach, and the area
was twice the size, the production per household was
higher in Ahero than in Awach (Table 2).
The sales volume per household was also affected by
such differences as the area of paddy field per household
and the input amount of fertilizer between the two areas.
The Ahero scheme sold an average of 3,540
kg/household in 2012 and 2,382 kg/household in 2015,
while the Awach scheme sold just 850 kg/household in
2012 and 569 kg/household in 2015. The value of the
Ahero sales exceeded 100,000 KSh/household in each
year, whereas the Awach sales were worth only
approximately one-fifth this amount. In this way, it was
found that there was a large difference over the years in
Yamane 621
the scale of rice cultivation and rice cultivation
management in the two survey areas.
Cost of wage labor in rice management
In each scheme, the author observed the rice cultivation
practices. Rice cultivation requires the simultaneous labor
of many people for planting and harvesting, weeding
(especially when weeding is delayed by 10 days),
scraping, and leveling; timing is also very important,
especially as the yield may be lowered by approximately 1
ton per what unit of area if farmers fail to adhere to optimal
timing (Johnson et al., 2004). In the case of Ahero, the
water supply schedule is decided in advance for each
block; it is desirable to start preparing the ground as soon
as possible. However, in Awach, it is better to finish work
ahead of time to secure water as soon as possible and
start cultivation, owing to unpredictable rainfall patterns. It
is difficult to perform these tasks with household labor
alone, so these are often undertaken using paid labor.
This study calculated various expenses associated with
rice cultivation, including wage labor costs. Expenditure
on wages accounted for the greatest proportion of
spending on rice cultivation (Table 3). In Ahero, the
expenses varied greatly depending on the year, but wage
expenses accounted for more than half of all cost for rice
cultivation (about 60%) (Table 3). In Awach, the
proportion of wage expenses was close to 80%. It can be
inferred that it is very important to secure the wage cost
for rice cultivation in this region (Table 3).
Wage labor contributes significantly to rice production.
A detailed breakdown of wage labor is given as follows.
Figure 2 shows 12 work steps that potentially involve
wage labor as observed for rice cultivation. First, there are
two rounds of plowing that take place before the start of
rice cultivation. The first round is undertaken when the
paddy field is dry; any grass that grew during its fallow
period must be cut. The second round is undertaken
under irrigated conditions and is left for about one week
afterward. Any embedded grass floats to the surface of
the water. The soil surface is leveled (Step 3) to transplant
rice seedlings and to control the depth of water in the
paddy. Sometimes, there is a one-month gap between the
first and second plowings. Nursery beds are often
provided with nurseries, but before and after the second
plowings, many of the nursery beds are located close to
the intake and are transplanted after nurturing for about
three weeks. The first weeding is carried out 23 days after
transplanting in Ahero and 37 days after transplanting in
Awach, according to the results of the 2012 survey.
Similar differences in weeding between the two sites were
observed in the findings of participant-observers in 2016
also. Many farmers in Ahero carry out a second weeding,
and then begin heading rice about two months after
transplanting and scaring birds away one month after the
heading. There are also three types of harvesting work:
622 Afr. J. Agric. Res.
Table 1. Rice cultivation by area - self-sufficiency, size of harvest, and number of domestic livestock per household.
Ahero Awach
2012 2015 2012 2015
77 households1 49 households 77 households 40 households
Family members per household (people)2 5.9 4.5 4.6 4.3
Average number of non-employed people 3.2 1.1 3.00 1.29
Average number of employed people 2.70 2.39 2.60 2.02
Type of occupation Agriculture 2.21 2.00 2.29 1.57
People/household Trader 0.21 0.03 0.10 0.03
Farmer 0.03 0.28 0.10 0.24
Other 0.28 0.00 0.21 0.18
Area size (ha/household) Rice 1.01 0.65 0.55 0.47
M&S3 0.27 0.14 0.53 0.4
Yield (kg/household) Rice 4.291 2.935 1.497 768
M&S4 333 313 217 242
Number /household Cattle 5.2 5.5 6.1 3
Number /household Small ruminants 4.1 1.8 5.8 3.7
1Because different areas cultivate different cereals, this study obtained information about which crops were grown by the households and classified
the households by this combination. 2 This study divided the number of people into those who did not live together in a dala for more than 6 months
and family members.3 Total area of land where maize and sorghum (M&S) were cultivated.4 Total yield of M&S. Note: All units are in parentheses.
rice cutting, rice-straw loading, and threshing. Notably,
rice cutting is generally regarded as male labor. Cut rice is
placed in the middle of a paddy field in donut-shapes
about 5 m in diameter and left for about three days.
Thereafter, threshing work is carried out in the “hole” of
the donut. A vinyl sheet is placed on the ground; if the rice
straw is struck against stone, it can easily be threshed in a
nylon bag.
Percentage of wage labor use
This study investigated the extent to which wage labor is
used in each of the 12 work steps. Awach used a higher
percentage of family labor to perform specific tasks, such
as the first plowing, transplanting, and the first weeding,
whereas, in Ahero, about 90% of the labor was completed
by wage laborers, with the exception of the second
weeding and bird-scaring work (Figures 2a and 2b). A big
difference was found between the two areas (Figures 2a
and 2b). A total of 48 households cultivated 51 paddy
fields in Ahero during 2015; more than 80% used wage
labor for all 12 types of work (Figure 2a). In particular, the
rate of wage labor use was high, at about 95%, for first
plowing, first weeding, and harvesting (Figure 2b). In
Awach, 40 households cultivated 63 paddy fields (Figure
2a). There was less wage labor used in Awach than in
Ahero, although a higher proportion was used in Awach
during first plowing and transplantation (about 80%). At
first weeding, the proportion of wage labor used in Awach
was 65% (Figure 2a). In total, wage labor used in paddy
fields accounted for less than 50% (Figure 2a) of the total
labor input in Awach.
Differences in labor input for rice cultivation between
the two schemes
Among the various operating expenses of rice farming,
land rental fees comprise the highest proportion. In
Awach, the ratio of wage labor is smaller than that in
Ahero, as shown in Figure 2. However, labor costs also
put pressure on rice farm management. To understand
these costs, this study analyzed how much labor was
used per household. This study calculated how much
labor time was spent on each type of work. The total labor
input per household amounted to 269 people days for
Ahero and 266 people days for Awach, showing little
difference between the two regions. Regarding labor input
by work type, weeding incurred the largest amount of
labor, requiring 122 people per day per household for
Ahero and 91 people per day per household for Awach.
Yamane 623
Table 2. Averages of cultivation area, rice yield per household, sales volume, and sales value of the two rice cultivation schemes.
Number of households
investigated (Households) Area of paddy fields
(ha/household) Yield
(kg/household) Production
(kg/ha) Sales quantity
(kg/household) Sales value
2012 Ahero (NIB) 77 1.02 4.290 4.560 3.540 145.586
Awach 77 0.55 1.500 3.190 850 34.813
2015 Ahero(NIB) 49 0.65 2.935 5.140 2.382 115.516
Awach 40 0.47 768 3.215 569 19.260
All units are in parentheses.
Table 3. Rice-farm income composition per household for each scheme in 2012 and 2015.
Income composition
NIB Awach
2012 2015 2012 2015
77* 49 76* 37
Ksh/household % Ksh/household % Ksh/household % Ksh/household %
Sales amount 145,590 115,516 34,810 19,260
Management expenses * 54,170 27,779 25,900 22,206
Payment rent 2,080 4 2,044 7 2,410 9 445 2
Wage expense 33,510 62 14050 51 20,600 80 18,369 83
Seed dues 2,620 5 2,260 8 1,230* 5 1,360 6
Irrigation fee 3,620 7 3,241 12 240 1 1,418 6
Pesticide purchase cost * 2,050 4 968 3 280 1 88 0
Herbicide purchase cost 70 0 0 0 10 0 0 0
Fertilizer purchase cost 9,880 18 4,427 16 1,26 5 524 2
Man fair purchasing cost 340 1 789 3 110 0 2 0
Compost purchase cost 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Agricultural income 91410 100 87,737 100 8780 100 -2,946 100
*Rent payment, wage expenses, seed fees, irrigation fees, agricultural chemical purchase cost, herbicide purchase cost, fertilizer purchase cost, manure
purchase cost, and compost purchase cost total. The input goods price was also included in 2016. **Since an abnormal pesticide purchase value was
deemed to have been recorded for one household, this household was excluded from all calculations.
The next most labor-intensive activity was bird scaring,
requiring 49 people per day per household for Ahero and
73 people per day per household for Awach, followed by
harvesting and transplanting at 20 and 40 people per day
per household, respectively. Wage labor accounted for
more than 80% of all work carried out in Ahero, and wage
labor costs accounted for 60% of management expenses,
yet farmers there still managed to earn a profit because
the yield was high. However, although it seems that
Awach was attempting to minimize labor job requirements
and wage labor costs as much as possible (Figure 3a), it
was difficult to do so for labor-intensive work, such as
transplantation and weeding. Wage labor was frequently
used for intensive work that needs to be concentrated in a
short period of time, such as harvesting. For these tasks,
especially weeding, a labor force of approximately 100
people per household was required. Considering that only
about two people were engaged in agriculture per
household, it is evident that these tasks could not be
covered by family labor alone. It was also observed that
family labor covered work with relatively low labor input,
such as leveling (Figure 3a).
How farmers pay for wage labor
In Ahero, a farmers’ organization manages a revolving
fund and has a scheme to lend individuals funds for rice
cultivation. Beginning with the first cultivation, 30 to 50%
of households in the surveyed area were supported by
loans to fund all 12 work steps (Figure 3b). Many
households in Ahero (20 to 30%) paid for wage labor
costs with funds obtained from selling rice the previous
year (Figure 3b). In addition, some households, albeit not
many, sold livestock and used small-scale business
financing (Figure 3b). On the other hand, in Awach, many
households sold livestock to secure cost of wage labor or
other earned money by doing wage labor for another
624 Afr. J. Agric. Res.
Figure 2. Ratio of paddies that used wage labor by area in 2015.
(Figure 3a). Few households paid for wage labor by
selling rice (Figure 3). In addition, one or two households
received funds obtained from the profit of their own
small-scale business (Figure 3a). However, 12
households reported that their rice was dried up before
harvesting, even though they invested money for rice
Who works as wage laborers?
Figures 4a and 4b show where wage laborers hired in
Awach and Ahero reside. While a small proportion of
laborers hired in Awach came from the Gemrae and
Nyachoda schemes that border Awach (Figure 4b), 80% of
the labor was supplied by people who live in Awach
(Figure 4b). For the first and second plowings (which, in
other schemes, are often carried out using cattle or
tractors), since an ox plow requires ownership of bulls
(Okkidi, 1990), the equipment was rented from the people
of Gemrae (Figure 4b). However, more than 90% of
Ahero’s wage earners were from the Ahero scheme
(Figure 4a). Therefore, similar to the situation in Awach, in
Ahero, some people living in the scheme provided the
labor necessary for the scheme’s rice cultivation, whereas
in other cases, labor incurred a wage cost.
Relationship between farmers and wage laborers
People who live in the same scheme may work as wage
laborers, but what kind of relationship do they have with
the rice farmers who employ them? The survey included
questions about the relationship between rice farmers and
wage laborers. In Awach, about 30% of employees were
neighbors or relatives (Figure 5a), and more than 60%
were either acquaintances or close friends of the rice
farmers who employed them (Figure 5a). In Ahero, a
higher proportion of people were employed (more than
40%) who were unknown to the rice farmers (Figure 5b).
The remaining 60% comprised relatives and friends.
These results demonstrate a 10% difference in the
proportion of neighboring people who were hired as
compared with Awach (Figure 5a).
These differences are thought to be due to differences
in the makeup of local villages. Ahero was forcibly settled
in a specific way when the scheme was created. It seems
that many people living in each place of residence belong
to the same clan, but due to the large scheme, they often
do not know people in different places of residence. Water
is circulated through 12 blocks in the scheme over the
course of a year, so people from different blocks often
come to earn wages as laborers, often hiring themselves
to strangers. On the other hand, Awach is cultivated
mainly by people of the same clan centered around two
often relatives.
It is highly probable that these regional differences lead to
the differences in wage labor between the two survey
Role of wage labor in rice farming households in
Awach's rice-growing revenue per household was very
low as compared to Ahero’s. Although the yield may be
low, the management cost is very high, and the wage cost
accounts for 80% of the management cost. One of the
goals of rice cultivation support was to devise and
disseminate a method for improving rice cultivation
Yamane 625
Figure 3. Method of accounting for wage labor costs in 2015.
Figure 4. Residences of wage laborers in 2015.
management. In the two rice-growing areas targeted,
therefore, trying to reduce wage labor costs is considered
to be the most effective way to improve rice farming.
However, wage labor in rice cultivation is carried out by
people in each region, and improving rice farming by
considering only the profits of rice farmers will affect the
income of other households in the region. This possibility
was considered, and we attempted to clarify the role of
wage labor costs in households. Therefore, we will clarify
the annual income of household A, who also operates rice
cultivation but also earns income as wage laborers, and
compare it with the total income earned from wage labor
and rice cultivation.
The example of this household (household A) was used
to examine the ratio of income between wage labor and
the household expenses. This household had an average
area of land (for Awach) for cultivating rice and other
crops for self-sufficiency, and the amount of livestock
owned by the household was also about average. Of the
household members, only the adult woman was paid for
her labor when rice farming.
A daily record showed that she had multiple income
sources (Table 4). The main income was earned through
the sale of firewood and charcoal; firewood was collected
from the neighborhood, while the charcoal was resold
from earlier purchases. She also earned income from
wage labor and by stockpiling a portion of rice to sell
throughout the year. A record of food purchases was also
collated. The women in this area have a mutual
assistance system called the Merry-go-round system, a
626 Afr. J. Agric. Res.
Figure 5. Relationship between wage labor and rice farmers employed by area in 2015.
savings club that is used to help support household
budgets. The housewife was found to have some form of
income nearly every day. Based on the number of days in
a month that she earned income, her most frequent
source of income was the almost daily sale of charcoal
(Table 4); she sold charcoal on 20 to 25 days per month.
The third biggest source of income was wage labor for
other people, mainly for those living near her village. Her
income from wages fluctuated slightly depending on the
season. Specifically, it increased considerably from March
to May, when the housewife earned income for about 20
days of labor per month. Between June and July, when
preparation for the cultivation of rice generally begins,
there is a reduced chance of being hired; during this time,
the housewife earned income on less than 10 days per
month (Figure 5).
The amount of income earned by this woman from
various income sources was 375,828 KSh/year (Table 4).
Her combined income from the sale of charcoal and
firewood exceeded 30% of her total. The income she
earned from wages in employment in rice production was
also relatively high, accounting for 16% of her total
income, second only to charcoal and firewood sales
(Table 4). It was considered to be a very large source of
income, which was larger than the income (23910KSh/
household) she obtained by selling rice.
A comparison of rice cultivation in two areas in western
Kenya showed differences. In Ahero, a large-scale
irrigated rice-growing area, profits of nearly 100,000 KSh
have been generated in multiple years; similar results
were reported for rice management in Mwea, the largest
irrigation scheme in central Kenya (Ito, 2017). On the other
hand, in a small-scale irrigated area, Awach, which is
one-tenth the size of Ahero, farmers got smaller profit from
rice cultivation for multiple years. Despite the fact that
Awach makes little profit, it was necessary to hire workers
for jobs where timing was important, such as
transplantation and herbicide application; wages paid
accounted for approximately 80% of management costs.
There are also differences in how to secure management
costs, and while many homes sell valuable livestock and
use them for wages in Awach, Ahero has a mechanism for
enabling smooth financing. Considering these facts, rice
cultivation and rice farm management are consistently
better in Ahero than in Awach.
The goals of JICA’s support of rice cultivation in Kenya
(2013) have been listed as follows: (1) establish a
profitable farming system; (2) strengthen water
management, production, and post-harvest treatment
systems for establishing the farming structure; and (3)
extend the farming system to local farmers [11,12].
Awach’s rice cultivation income was lower than Ahero’s,
and the ratio of wage costs to management costs was
high. Considering the economic disparity among rice
farmers in the region, it would be better to support Awach
more. Considering the priority of improving the rice
cultivation of individual farmers, it would be possible to
reduce wage costs, which account for a large part of the
management costs, by providing more efficient labor,
especially for Awach. Such an approach can also benefit
Ahero, as their wage labor costs also reach 60% of
management costs. In terms of rice farm management, it is
considered better to improve the efficiency of wage labor,
which accounts for most management expenses.
However, in this case, it must be considered that wage
laborers hired within each scheme are people living in that
same scheme. The percentage of farmers hiring neighbors
and people they knew was higher in Awach than in Ahero.
In Awach, members of the same extended patrilineal
family continue to live in proximity and form a village, and
the scheme is mainly cultivated by members of two
extended patrlineal families, with the same family’s paddy
Yamane 627
Table 4. Woman’s sources of annual income and expenditure for Household A.
Year Month Charcoal Firewood Merry-go-round Working for others Rice sales Other family member Total income
KSh/month % KSh/month % KSh/month % KSh/month % KSh/month % KSh/month % KSh/month %
Aug 6,160 20 3,270 10 6,080 19 4,360 14 3,190 10 8,350 27 31,410 100
Sep 5,790 18 2,980 9 5,200 16 5,160 16 2,010 6 10,890 34 32,030 100
Oct 6,720 23 2,890 10 5,400 18 3,900 13 1,920 7 8,660 29 29,490 100
Nov 5,970 20 4,170 14 4,630 15 2,550 8 2,400 8 10,300 34 30,020 100
Dec 5,100 18 3,300 12 2,680 9 4,740 17 2,570 9 10,130 36 28,520 100
Jan 5,490 11 2,930 6 9,960 21 4,640 10 3,920 8 21,500 44 48,440 100
Feb 7,090 21 2,790 8 6,500 19 6,300 18 2,080 6 9,650 28 34,410 100
Mar 7,270 25 3,299 11 1,550 5 7,090 24 1,950 7 8,190 28 29,349 100
Apr 8,369 31 3,140 12 0 0 7,730 29 1,120 4 6,350 24 26,709 100
May 10,840 39 1,890 7 0 0 5,390 19 0 0 10,000 36 28,120 100
Jun 10,510 37 3,250 11 600 2 5,460 19 800 3 7,700 27 28,320 100
Jul 9,860 34 3,840 13 0 0 4,360 15 1,950 7 9,000 31 29,010 100
Total (KSh/year) 89,169 24 37,749 10 42,600 11 61,680 16 23,910 6 120,720 32 375,828 100
All units are in parentheses.
fields nearby.
In addition, a survey of the account book of a
farmer also engaged in wage labor in Awach
indicated that her income from wage labor was
higher than her income from the sale of rice during
that year. This demonstrates the possibility that
wage labor is greatly helping to support daily life of
other farmers in the scheme. The current support
was aimed at establishing and disseminating a
mechanism to increase the profit efficiency of rice
farming on a household basis, but it is not
necessarily good support, considering society as a
whole in the rice farming area.
In Asia, the livelihoods of rural residents have
become totally dependent on the market economy
as land-intensive technological innovation has
successfully spread. At the same time, mutual aid
practices among residents are said to have
declined, and social relations have been disrupted.
Because households often hire neighbors for paid
employment, and considering the importance of
wages to household income, support in the form of
mechanization and other labor-reducing solutions
is not recommended.
However, the relationship between rice farmers
and workers was different in the two regions. In
Ahero, a high percentage of members of the same
scheme hired strangers. In Ahero, residents were
forcibly resettled when large-scale irrigation was
developed, and they did not maintain the traditional
form of a village; rather, there was a tendency for
people belonging to the same extended patrilineal
family to cultivate rice in the same block.
In the available literature about labor supply
structures for rice farmers in Southeast Asia, there
are divergent views as to whether the mechanism
of farm household labor supply can be explained
by the community or economic principles
(Yamada, 1996).Therefore, in the case of Ahero, it
can be inferred that the mechanism of wage labor
is based on economic principles, whereas, in the
case of Awach, the structure of wage labor takes
into account the additional factor of community
principles. However, hiring an unknown person
means that risk is taken, as the farmer does not
know his or her ability to work; thus, there is a need
to evaluate the efficiency of his or her work
Based on the findings above, it can be said that
even rice cultivation support may have an impact
on the local economy through wage labor,
628 Afr. J. Agric. Res.
depending on the method of support. Therefore, to support
local rice cultivation while maintaining existing social and
economic structures in the region (Ellis, 2000; Davis et al.,
2008; Davis and Bezemer, 2004), it is necessary to
understand those structures, including the actual
conditions of wage labor. However, in this paper, we have
only shown that support focusing solely on rice farming
may affect the structure of the local economy and local
communities, but we have not been able to clarify details
of the structures or how much support will affect them.
Therefore, it will be necessary to devise appropriate rice
cultivation support after conducting surveys on local
communities and livelihoods beyond rice cultivation.
The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.
This work was supported by the Japan Society for the
Promotion of Science KAKENHI (Grant Number
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A Community for the Promotion of African Rice Cultivation
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (2008). A Community for the Promotion of African Rice Cultivation. Available at: (accessed July 7, 2018).
Present State of Non-traditional Swiss Cultivation in Eastern Kalimantan. Indonesia Institute of Agriculture and Forest
  • M Inoue
  • M Kumazaki
Inoue M, Kumazaki M (1991). Present State of Non-traditional Swiss Cultivation in Eastern Kalimantan. Indonesia Institute of Agriculture and Forest, University of Tsukuba 7:59-102. Available at: (in Japanese)