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Accueil du site → Doctorat → États-Unis → 2007 → The state, ecology, and society in Western Kenya : politics of soil conservation and land management in Vihiga 1930-1950

West Virginia University (2007)

The state, ecology, and society in Western Kenya : politics of soil conservation and land management in Vihiga 1930-1950

Shanguhyia, Martin Shidende

Titre : The state, ecology, and society in Western Kenya : politics of soil conservation and land management in Vihiga 1930-1950

Auteur : Shanguhyia, Martin Shidende

Université de soutenance : West Virginia University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2007

This study focuses on the conflict that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s between the British colonial government officials and the African farmers in Vihiga, Western Kenya, over approaches to land management. The colonial state was more than convinced that unprecedented soil erosion in most of the African reserves across the Colony was to blame for much of the social and economic problems that those areas were experiencing. Vihiga, the leading producer of maize in the Colony, was not spared such concerns, hence increased state intervention in this area’s agricultural production and land management processes. Vihiga offered a special place to the economic needs of the British colonial government in Kenya, but also produced maize surpluses that were frequently sent, in the 1930s and 1940s, to areas hit by food shortages in neighboring territories especially Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia. State intervention was in the form of a rigorous state-sponsored soil conservation program that was launched in earnest in 1935, but which failed to yield results by 1950. The study relies heavily on archival documents so as to analyze the (state) perceived and actual causes of soil erosion in colonial Vihiga, and official approaches enforced by the state to conserve the soil and promote what it believed was a sustainable land management program. The study also focuses on rural community responses to enforced state conservation and related land management programs. The international dimension of ecological change in this part of rural Africa is sought by examining the important role played by the American Dust bowl of the 1930s upon British colonial conservation guidelines for Vihiga, as well as the influence of the Second World War on the extraction of land-based resources, especially maize, on the quality of land in this part of Western Kenya. The study reveals that British colonial soil conservation procedures designated for African farmers in Vihiga failed as colonial agricultural and administration officials encountered overt and covert resistance from the local community. The reasons for this failure, it argued here, were complex and wide-ranging : contradictory state approach to the utilization of indigenous African values and institutions in land management, lack of the state’s accommodation of emerging local land tenure patterns, demographic change, agricultural commercialization and its impact on rural class differentiation, market forces, failure by the state to promote a sense of land security within the local community, imposition of Western technical conservation techniques untenable on the existing African farms, and, most important, state prioritization of capitalist extraction based on maize production at the expense of the welfare of the land. Above all, it was the politicization of land and related production processes by the government and the European settlers which prevented the successful adoption of official soil conservation measures by African farmers in Vihiga. Subsequently, a political ecology framework is employed in the study to unearth how the politicization of resources in colonial states such as Kenya’s dictated relations over land and policies prescribed by authorities to confront threats to the well-being of this resource. This study represents a historiographical shift from the nationalist approach that has dominated previous studies that have examined society-land-state relations in colonial Kenya which have tended to focus on Central and Rift Valley regions of Kenya where land alienation by the British colonial state were commonplace. In Vihiga, and Western Kenya in general, land alienation was not as widespread or even lacking in many areas, yet local resistance to colonial soil conservation and land ’improvement’ techniques were common. The task of this study is to address this phenomenon. The study shows Vihiga’s, and therefore, Western Kenya’s unique place in helping to understand the complex local

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Page publiée le 2 janvier 2017, mise à jour le 13 novembre 2018