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Abstract

Commercialization is often viewed as an avenue to improve household food security due to its comparative advantages over subsistence production. However, there are arguments for and against smallholder commercialization as a pathway for ensuring household food security. This paper sought to identify factors that influence household food security for Kenyan rural smallholder households, and in particular, determine if household commercialization as defined by household participation in input (fertilizer and seed) and crop output markets affects food security position. Results showed that household commercialization was associated with a reduced risk of being in the chronically food poor and oscillator groups compared to the food non-poor group. Hence, market participation can play a significant role in reducing food poverty, thus ensuring food security. This suggests that facilitating the expansion of market participation by smallholder farmers can be critical in helping households transition out of food poverty. This will entail enabling access to affordable production inputs, suitable to small scale farmers, thus ensuring that farmers are not trapped in low productivity–low return farming activities that lead to food insecurity. The use of productivity enhancing inputs will improve the ability of smallholder farmers to produce sufficient marketable surplus. Also, it will be important to strengthen efforts geared toward creating market linkages for the various agricultural enterprises. Moreover, innovations that enhance households’ access to land, education, savings and employment can be instrumental in raising their ability to produce food and access it from the market, ensuring food security.

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