Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 571–587 | Cite as

On developing a scale to measure chronic household seed insecurity in semi-arid Kenya and the implications for food security policy

  • Megan MuciokiEmail author
  • Bernard Pelletier
  • Timothy Johns
  • Lutta W. Muhammad
  • Gordon M. Hickey
Original Paper


Seed security is complementary and relational to food security; having access to seed that produces meaningful and resilient yields of culturally appropriate food is an integral aspect of food security for smallholder farmers. However, essential components of smallholder seed security continue to be underemphasized in food and seed policy. In this study, we analyze household and farm-level characteristics that may predict chronic seed insecurity in semi-arid eastern Kenya. In the process, we also present and test the Household Seed Insecurity Assessment Scale (HSIAS) designed to measure household chronic seed insecurity. Results suggest that mild chronic seed insecurity continues to be a problem in most households, hampering their ability to produce food. We found that older and more experienced farmers were more seed insecure and that farmer adoption of new varieties was associated with seed insecurity. Obtaining seed through local markets and informal giving was done evenly by all farmers while using agroshops was associated with greater seed insecurity in some instances. Key attributes of household seed (in)security identified in this study are used to inform seed and food policies that better support smallholder farmers in Kenya. With further development, the HSIAS has the potential to enhance local monitoring systems and government food and seed policy responses.


Food policy Agriculture policy Seed security Smallholder farmers Survey scale development Generalized ordered logit model 



The authors are thankful for the time and expertise contributed from anonymous participants in this study as well as dedicated enumerators and translators. We also would like to thank all the reviewers who provided insightful comments and suggestions through the evolution of this study and manuscript. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada, and with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and various direct and indirect contributions by the Government of the Republic of Kenya through the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). This research was completed as part of a project titled: Enhancing Ecologically Resilient Food Security in the Semi-Arid Midlands of Kenya, led by McGill University and KALRO (Principal Investigators: Gordon M. Hickey and Lutta W. Muhammad).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Science DepartmentMcGill UniversityQuebecCanada
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesMcGill UniversityQuebecCanada
  3. 3.School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Macdonald-Stewart BuildingMcGill UniversityQuebecCanada
  4. 4.Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research OrganizationNairobiKenya

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