Rice is now the most rapidly growing food commodity in sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is mainly driven by urbanization. There is substantial research on the wage labor dynamics in rice production in Asia, but in Africa, there is limited analysis of the labor used in rice cultivation—the attributes, numbers, and costs—which makes it difficult to understand the actual market, such as how products are procured. This study aims to fill this gap in the research by comparing wage labor factors in two rice cultivation areas in Kenya: Awach and Ahero. The role of wage labor in farm household management as well as in the economy of the areas is considered. The results, based on two surveys, show that, at the Awach small-scale scheme, the yield was low and the cultivation area small, generating profit per household of only about one-half that of the more large-scale Ahero scheme. High wage expenses at Awach put pressure on rice farming management because, although family labor was used for rice cultivation, additional labor was required for transplanting and weeding, incurring expenses. These were covered by sales of rice in the previous year or sales of livestock. In both areas, wage laborers were mostly people residing in the same area. In the case of Ahero, the scale of the scheme itself was large, and the hired laborers were unknown. However, in Awach, there was a high rate of hiring neighbors, and thus, wage labor costs could also be understood as a source of income for people in the area. Therefore, it can be inferred, in the case of Ahero, that there is a mechanism of wage labor based on economic principles, whereas in the case of Awach, small-scale production using family labor may be less efficient, but there is an additional concern with community principles.
Keywords: rice cultivation, western Kenya, wage labor, economic principles, community principles