Journal of
Development and Agricultural Economics

  • Abbreviation: J. Dev. Agric. Econ.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2006-9774
  • DOI: 10.5897/JDAE
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 552

Full Length Research Paper

Maize varieties and production constraints: Capturing farmers’ perceptions through participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) in Eastern Kenya

J. O. Ouma1* and H. De Groote2
1Agricultural Economist, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), KARI-Embu, P. O. Box 27-60100 Embu, Kenya. 2Agricultural Economist, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Nairobi, Kenya.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 01 December 2011
  •  Published: 12 December 2011


Maize is the major staple food for most Kenyan households, and is grown in almost all agro-ecological zones. To assure that new technologies fit farmers’ needs and conditions, Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRAs) were undertaken in the moist transitional zone of Eastern Kenya, as part of a nationwide study. The results of group discussions in five communities of the zone show that farmers grow a wide range of varieties. Eleven improved varieties were grown, the most popular being Makueni, an improved Open Pollinated Variety (OPV) (grown by 71% of the farmers), followed by Pioneer hybrid PHB3253 (57%), and Kenya Seed Company’s hybrids for the mid-altitudes: H511 (50%) and H512 (30%). A third of the farmers (31%) grow local varieties. To select their maize varieties, farmers reported 14 criteria, especially high yield, early maturity, tolerance to weevils, and good yield in both rainy seasons. The two major constraints were a cash constraint (to purchase inputs), low or erratic rainfall, low technical knowledge, the high cost of seed, low soil fertility and stem borers. Stem borers were by far the most important pest, ranked in the top three by all groups, followed by chaffer grubs, squirrels, termites and weevils. Indigenous control methods are the most popular, with only a quarter of farmers using chemical control. Farmers estimate that stem borer infestation decreases yields by 33 to 80%, and would be very interested in resistant varieties. The liberalization of the seed market has clearly been successful in the study zone, and the number of stockists and available new varieties increasing fast. However, seed quality and the lack of control is a major concern, as is the lack of credit.


Key words: Maize, participatory rural appraisal (PRA), Kenya, pest.