The colonial transformation of Gusii agriculture
Moenga, Omwoyo S
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This study focuses on the organisation and transformation of agriculture among the Gusii of western Kenya in the colonial period. A background chapter examines the dynamism and innovativeness of Gusii indigenous agriculture on the eve of colonial rule, showing its diversity, efficiency, productiveness and self-reliance. It is urgued that Gusii agricultural organisation was sound and rational and based on the Gusii people's knowledge of their own environment. Colonial penetration modified, marginalised and subordinated Gusii land's indigenous agriculture. The Gusii were peasantries and their role as commodity producers enhanced. Part of the Gusii population was proletarianised as migrant workers and later as a rural semi-proletariat in the migrant workers and later as a rural semi-proletariat in the district. However, it is argued, indigenous agricultural organisation did not cease completely; it kept readjusting, was articulated and co-existed with the colonial capitalist sector. The dependency theoretical formulations are evident in the case of Gusii Land. Gusii households suffered from insufficient labour, resulting in food shortages. Extensive cultivation of maize for exported to soil degradation and erosion. And the introduction of cash crops severely affected food production. It si argued here that while colonial capitalism provided new opportunities for some Gusii to accumulate wealth and expand agricultural output, it also pauperised part of the population. In addition, the new mode of production hindered and in some cases ruined some indigenous patterns of agriculture. 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 Abagusii. So, for example, maize, hitherto a major food crop produced by the Gusii, had to be imported in 1961 to avert a potentially dangerous food shortage situation. By independence, therefore, Gusii agriculture had been fundamentally transformed and integrated into the Kenya colonial economy as a part of the World capitalist system.