Women and African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs): Cultivation and the informal seed system in Vihiga County, Kenya
African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) play an important role for food sovereignty and nutritional security, with women central in the cultivation of ALVs on smallholder farms in Kenya. However, the main
constraint of ALV cultivation in Kenya is the lack of available and accessible quality seeds.
The aims of this thesis are to (1) identify which ALVs are cultivated and which factors influence cultivation, (2) to identify the sources of ALV seeds and which factors influence the informal seed system, and finally to (3) describe and analyze the extent in which women participate in and make decisions about the cultivation of ALVs.
To fulfill these aims, data was taken from a 2018 baseline survey of 431 households in Vihiga County, located in the Lake Victoria Basin in Western Kenya. Over 88% of smallholder farmers in Vihiga County cultivate up to ten different ALV species, with over 90% of seeds stemming from three informal seed sources: the local market, own seeds, and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Women are key actors in the cultivation of ALVs, more often responsible for ALV cultivation than men and more likely to cultivate ALVs. Women make most of the decisions regarding cultivation, sale and income through ALVs and are the central custodians in the ALV seed system. Understanding gendered intrahousehold dynamics and the gendered informal seed system of ALVs is essential for supporting ALV cultivation, ALV community seed bank initiatives and on-farm ALV seed conservation projects.