The colonial transformation of agriculture in Siaya, c.1894-1945
Cokumu, Pius Ouma
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This study focuses on agricultural change in Siaya between 1894 and 1945. The study contends that the people of Siaya had an efficient, self-sustaining and dynamic agricultural system prior to the advent of the establishment of the British colonial rule and its attendant institutions. It demonstrates that Luo agricultural organization was sound and rational and based on Siaya people's knowledge of their own environment. It further argues that during the colonial epoch, the colonial state played a major role in incorporating the agriculture of Siaya into colonial capitalist economy. It did this through political conquest and the establishment of a repressive regime. This led to the loss of political independence by the people of Siaya. It also defined the political parameters within which the colonial capitalist economy was established and influenced the responses of the local people. The colonial state also established a system of taxation, which was aimed at the collection of revenue for financing general administration and also for drawing the local people into the capitalist economy. A more direct assault on the indigenous agriculture by the colonial regime was the introduction and development of commodity production, wage labour, and the extension of market. To achieve these and to serve the needs of capitalism the colonial regime partially dissolved and restructured the indigenous agriculture. For instance, Luo households in Siaya suffered from insufficient labour, resulting in food shortages. Extensive cultivation of crops such as maize for export led to soil degradation and erosion. While colonial capitalism provided new opportunities for some people in Siaya to accumulate wealth and expand agricultural output, it also pauperised part of the population. In addition, the new mode of production modified, marginalised and subordinated the Luo indigenous agriculture. However, it is contended that Luo agricultural organisation was not totally destroyed; it kept readjusting, was articulated and co-existed with the colonial capitalist sector to serve the interest of capitalism. And the introduction of cash crops severely affected food production.