Tea farming technical packages tailored to improve productivity have been developed by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya and availed to farmers for adoption where the estate subsector has demonstrated that these packages can double the current small holder tea production of 1,800 kg made tea per hectare. Despite this potential, there exists an alarmingly low uptake of these technologies by small holder tea farmers which points to significant gaps in the current tea sector policies and technology transfer worth exploring in the small holder tea sector. Lack of knowledge on socio-economic factors that constrain the adoption of these packages by smallholder tea farmers could be the cause of the wide gap that exist on the rate of adoption within the estate and small holder tea sub sectors. This is clearly demonstrated by low productivity in the latter over the years. Understanding these factors may provide explanations to the low adoption rates, which in turn could be used to formulate policies and offer research recommendations. This study is aimed at estimating how socio economic factors influence smallholder farmers’ decision to adopt the available tea farming technologies. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were employed with socio-economic factors as independent variables being regressed against the dependent variable of recommended yield improving tea farming technology in the Logistic Regression Model. The study was carried out among smallholder tea farmers affiliated to estates in the Nandi hills tea growing zone in Kenya. A questionnaire was randomly administered to 190 smallholder tea farmers who supplied green leaf to estate factories. The results generally showed that although, 99% of small holders grow potentially high yielding TN14/3 and C12 tea varieties, they do not apply the recommended practices needed to maximize the potential of these varieties. Only 45.8% of the small holder farmers were found to use the technologies. The logistic model analysis of the survey data showed that head gender, benefits awareness, costs awareness, and extension services significantly affected adoption. The implied significance on extension contact could be explained by lack of information on these packages among smallholder farmers who may be willing to adopt the technology. Policies that focus on transfer of information and reduction in cost of production based on these packages to smallholder farmers may help to boost the adoption. The evidence from the study also suggests that management skills seem to be lacking among the tea farmers in Nandi hills and calls for its inclusion in the training package. An organization to specifically represent the interests of estate smallholders would also be welcomed and useful.
Key words: Estate smallholder tea farmers, tea, technology adoption, Nandi hills, Kenya.
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