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James Gichuru Kariuki

Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Nairobi


Until the late 1980s coffee- and tea farming was considered a male role while dairy farming was reserved for women in central Kenya. However, the last two decades has witnessed a gradual shift from cash-crop farming to dairy-farming, thanks to low cash-crop prices. This has resulted in the reconfiguration of gender roles in the region, whereby men have abandoned kahua (coffee) for Karia (milk). Combining secondary and primary data collection techniques, this paper looks at the impediments to cash cropping in central Kenya and the dynamics behind this rural socio-economic reconstruction. The study shows that to perpetuate patriarchy, men can shift from ‘masculine’ economic activities into activities that are considered ‘feminine’. The paper notes a rise in male involvement in agricultural activities especially food crops not only as a strategy of alleviating rural poverty but as a way of engendering agriculture in Kenya. On the other hand, this shift results in further economic marginalization of women. The paper recommends policies that would ensure women are not economically marginalized further when men encroach on traditionally feminine roles.

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