An Environmental History of Machakos County, Kenya, C. 1895-1999
Muendo, Lydia Kanini
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This study examines the intersection of environmental change, government policy and the response of indigenous populations in Machakos County from around 1895 to 1999. The concern of this study is that there is a dearth of knowledge in the field of environmental change, policy and people response in spite abundance of studies carried out on Machakos County. This is the gap that the study has sought to fill. The main objective of the study was to analyse the relationship between the people of Machakos County and their environment in relation to government policy in the period between 1895 and 1999, although environmental history rarely falls into neat and specific dates. The first objective evolved from the pre-colonial period in an attempt to lay a foundation for assessing the interplay of colonial policies and the response of the indigenes on the environmental history of Machakos County up to 1963. The period after independence, up to the eve of the new millennium, examines the post-independence politics, policies and environmental change as played out in Machakos County. Political ecology as a perspective guided the study to explain the relationship between the expansion of colonial capitalism and the over-exploitation of resources and disorganisation of pre-colonial socio-economic relations that led to the environmental problems experienced in Machakos as elsewhere in Africa. The study demonstrates that government intervention in the environment did not stop at independence. Rather the government was increasingly involved in the environmental history of Machakos County. Hence, political ecology was found suitable for examining the extent to which the environment was politically conceptualised and handled in both the colonial and independence eras. The study was limited to the area occupied by the Akamba and historically known as Machakos from the pre-colonial era, through colonialism, to the post-independence time. Over this long stretch of time, its name and extent has been severally changed at the dictation of the politics of the day. Presently, the area goes by the name of Machakos County. Data for the study was drawn from both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources included archival records at the Kenya National Archives and oral interviews. Secondary data was obtained from both published and unpublished works. Descriptive data analysis using qualitative methods of content analysis followed immediately after data collection. The data was categorised according to themes in relation to the objectives of the study which formed the ultimate chapters of the final thesis write up. The findings of the study should be useful to policy makers who shall formulate informed policy decisions in environmental conservation and management as well as land use. It should also be useful to the residents of Machakos County who will, based on historical research, make better decisions concerning natural resource utilisation and rural development. It will add to the historiography of environmental change and policy-making laying the ground for further research for the twin but dialectical processes of environmental degradation and conservation.