The agricultural changes in the Kipsigis land, C.1894-1963: an historical inquiry
Omwoyo, Samson Moenga
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The study focuses on the organization, and transformation of agriculture among the Kipgisis of Western Kenya in the period proceeding and during colonialism. Data was collected from both primary and secondary sources and subjected to corroborative analysis using the historical method. An eclectic approach borrowing certain paradigms from the underdevelopment and dependency and articulation of modes of production theories were employed as the major tools of analysis. From the beginning it is demonstrated that the pre-colonial agriculture in the Kipsigisland was dynamic, innovative, diverse, efficient, self-reliant and suited to the needs of the Kipsigis people. It is argued that the Kipsigis agricultural organization was sound and rational and based on the people's knowledge of their environment. The colonial penetration set a chain of events in motion, which systematically modified, marginalized and subordinated the Kipsigis indigenous agriculture. Animal husbandry fell prey to the colonial maneuvers of depleting the Kipsigis stock. The Kipsigis farmers were peasantised and their role as commodity producers was articulated and firmly enforced. Part of the Kipsigis labour was proletarianised as migrant and resident workers in settler farms, and later as a semi proletariat in the Kipsigisland. The Kipsigis local industry was marginalized by the incoming merchant capital and as more and more Kipsigisland was alienated for European settler farming activities, the Kipsigis indigenous land tenure systems was gradually changed and tended to forms of privatization. However, it is argued, indigenous agricultural organization did not disappear; it kept readjusting was articulated and co-existed with the colonial capitalist sector in a contradictory manner of ''destruction/preservation'' or ''conservation/dissolution''. It emerges more clearly from the study that although agricultural land, animal husbandry, labour, and trade policies were aimed at achieving maximum benefits for the white settlers and the colonial state, the Kipsigis seem to have reacted in their own ways to exploit such policies for their own economic advantages. The Kipsigis were definitely not passive to the new colonial agricultural policies-they perceived them correctly accepting those that were of benefit to them while rejecting the undesirable ones, even if for a while as was the case of maize. The dependency theoretical formulations are replete in the study as the Kipsigis households suffered from insufficient labour and traditional chores were gradually changed, resulting in food shortages and the intensification of female labour. Extensive cultivation of maize for export led to soil degradation and erosion besides exploiting African labour through unequal exchange and differential pricing of their agricultural products. The introduction of cash crops severely affected food production and led to new systems of land tenure. Colonial capitalism also provided for unequal and uneven development throughout the Kipsigisland as Bureti and Belgut emerged as magnets of development and Sotik and Chepalungu relegated to the backwaters of economic development. It is also argued that while colonial capitalism provided new opportunities for some Kipsigis to accumulate wealth and expand agricultural output, it also pauperized part of the population. The notion of accumulation is intricately related to and engendered the processes of class formation. That by independence the Kipsigis were not a mass of undifferentiated and unstratified class is easily defended in the study. The emergence of stratified social categories invariably led to the ubiquitous aspect of class struggles. Thus, the new mode of production hindered and ruined some indigenous patterns of social formations by effecting changes in the agricultural sector of the Kipsigisland. During World War 11, agricultural production was intensified to produce enough food for war purposes. But in the post war period, emphasis shifted to the production of cash crops, and little attention was paid to the subsistence food needs of the Kipsigis. But more than ever before as the colonialists started giving recognition to African agricultural activities, aspects of class differentiation, unequal exchange, uneven development, wealth accumulation were even more amplified, as was the proletarianisation of the Kipsigis population and its dependency on the capitalist structures and institutions. By independence, therefore, the Kipsigis agriculture had been fundamentally transformed and integrated into the Kenyan colonial economy as part of the world capitalist system.