Gender Variable in Agricultural Technology: A Case Of Rural Farmers in Machakos District - Eastern Kenya

Gender differentiated technology is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, most technologies are developed and tailored according to the stereotyped roles of men and women in society. In Africa, technological development has been modelled on western pre-selected packages and implemented everywhere, irrespective of their appropriateness to the environmental, cultural and economic context. The perception of local communities about agricultural technology and their active involvement in technological development, is largely lacking. Despite their active and continuous interaction with the environment as food producers, concern regarding women’s technological knowledge on seed selection practices, pest and weed control measures, and harvesting and food preservation technologies, has never been included in policy making and implementation. Cash crop production which is dominated by men is characterized by the availability and utilization of improved farm equipment, such as tractors and combine harvesters, and farm inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides. It is also associated with the cash economy, where substantial financial benefits are obtained from agriculture. Subsistence farming, on the other hand, which is usually dominated by women, is characterized by traditional farming techniques, rudimentary farm technology and inadequate farm inputs. Another dimension of agricultural technological adoption and its use may be discerned from the increased presence of female managed farms in the rural areas. These category of farmers include defacto and dejure household heads: widows, and divorced and single women. While they are believed to have full control of their resources, the poorer socio-economic circumstances of female headed households are indicative of poverty and dependence other than authority and autonomy. Our objective is to find out the mechanism which influences the choice and use of agricultural technology along gender lines and determine their implications for increased food production in the area of study. Such mechanisms would include ownership of various forms of knowledge as well as the hardware technology required for farm operations.