A Historical Study of the Economic Transformation of the Samburu of North-Central Kenya, 1909-1963
Lemoosa, Peter Letotin
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The Samburu inhabit a locality they call Enkop el Samburu which is administratively referred to as Samburu District. It is one of the districts in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. This is a study of the economic history of the Samburu. The study provides a variety of Samburu social data to reconstruct the pre-colonial and colonial Samburu pastoral economy. The peopling of Samburu enkop or Samburu is given on the basis of oral traditions, which trace their origins from the two directions of Oto in the area South of the Ethiopian Highlands and Baringo (the area South of Lake Turkana). In the study, it is argued that the Samburu arrived and settled in some parts of their present land in the early nineteenth century. By the beginning of the twentieth century, they spread and inhabited all parts of the present day Samburuland. The study divides Samburuland into two geographical zones namely, the Lpurkel (Lowland) and Ldonyo (Highlands). These ecological zones, the study argues, have influenced the evolution of the Samburu pastoral economy. They have also influenced the formulation of the colonial policies to which the Samburu were subjected. The study posits that the Samburu pastoral economy was organized along traditional patterns. Although the Samburu livestock herders had individual rights to ownership of Livestock, their land tenure systems made land a collective economic productive resource. Communal ownership of a land gave them accessibility to this resource for the purposes of settlement and exploitation. In addition to this they used traditional methods of livestock organization, nomadic pastoralism, and livestock accumulation for both economic and social purposes. With the establishment of British colonial rule, new livestock management methods were introduced. They included the introduction of livestock breeds such as Sahiwal, Boran cattle, and the introduction of a new concept of land ownership, and the division of the Samburuland along clan lines. The colonial administration also imposed on the Samburu a destocking policy whereby they were forced to seal some of their livestock for cash. The study observes that in many respects the Samburu refused to cooperate with the British administrators. Whereas the Samburu resisted these efforts, the study shows how the introduction of taxation among the Samburu forced them to sell their livestock to raise money to pay the tax. The administrative impact o the colonial state was evidenced in the enforcement of the tax collection process that made the Samburu to seek wage employment as a means to raise money for the payment of the tax. This was one of the factors responsible for the transformation of the Samburu pastoral economy to make it responsive to labour market demands. Other factors included the effects of famine and livestock diseases. The study argues that these forces resulted in the employment of many Samburu both n the public and private sectors of the colonial political economy. The study demonstrates that before the advent of the British, the Samburu organized and operated a barter trade system. They exchanged cattle with small stock and vice versa. It proceeds to show how during the colonial period, the barter system was largely replaced by a money commanded exchange as Samburu livestock traders, shopkeepers and even alien merchants variously interacted in Samburu district. The study demonstrates that before the advent of the British, the Samburu organised and operated a barter trade system. They exchanged cattle with small stock and vice versa. It proceeds to show how during the colonial period, the barter system was largely replaced by a money commanded exchange as Samburu livestock traders, shopkeepers and even alien merchants variously interacted in Samburu District.