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The average per capita income in Kitui is less than €2 per day
 
 
 
 

Kitui- background history
Kitui- Historical Background
This summary of Kitui's history is adapted from other sources and especially the following: UNU Studies on Critical Environmental Regions, Edited by Jeanne X. Kasperson, Roger E. Kasperson, and B.L. Turner II. (This book launches a series from the United Nations University (UNU) research project, Critical Zones in Global Environmental Change, itself part of the UNU programme on the Human and Policy Dimensions of Global Change. See http://www.unu.edu/) The summary deals with the period from first European contact in the middle of the 19th century, up until the Second World War, because it was during this period that the forces which influence Kamba life today came into play.
 
1. Ukambani and the Kamba Tribe 3. Land degradation in the 1920s and 1930s  
2. Land alienation (1900-World War I) 4. Kamba Social Structure and Culture
Ukambani- Early History

Ukambani - which comprises Machakos, Kitui, Makueni and Mwingi districts - is the area populated by the Kamba tribe. It is somewhat synonymous with famine, owing to recurrent crop failures, resulting into perpetual dependency on food handouts. The Catholic Diocese of Kitui (CDK) comprises Kitui and Mwingi districts.

According to most sources, the Kamba,  who were hunters at the time, arrived in present-day Machakos from south of Mt Kilimanjaro around 1600 and eventually settled permanently in the Mbooni Hills. Here they first became consolidated as a separate people and turned increasingly to agriculture. Eventually, overcrowding forced a move into the bush, and the traditional land-use system of integrating highland agriculture with lowland cattle-grazing came into being.
Cattle owners led the settlement of dry frontier lands, attracted to the superior grazing on the plains. They began these settlements as cattle posts  but later established permanent villages. The Kamba retained integrated highland/lowland, crop/livestock systems of land use, which spread risk and ensured group survival. The system was flexible, equitable, and geared to the community as a whole. The traditional land-use system was well adapted to the difficult climate and physical environment. Integrated crop/livestock systems, spatially separated holdings, and mutual reciprocity arrangements served to spread risk and to provide mechanisms for coping with drought. It is worth noting that drought was always a feature of life in this region, long before the effects of man-made climate change came to be considered.
Kamba adaptability can also be seen, in that their traditional use of land displayed a readiness to expand, intensify, relocate, or supplement their farming and livestock production activities in response to the changing economic and ecological conditions at local and national level.The first Europeans to reach the interior of the area were the German missionaries Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann of the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS), in 1849.Some time later in the 1890s, the Kamba experienced the first significant contact with colonial settlers and administration.The British Crown eventually took over the administration of East Africa from the private International British East Africa company. However the colonialists brought mixed blessings. The new railroad from Mombasa  seems to have been the means by which rinderpest invaded Ukambani in 1898, leading to cattle losses.  Also in 1898/1899, foreigners brought smallpox to the region and a severe drought occurred. These forces coalesced into the great famine of 1897-1901. Since cattle normally served as the main drought insurance, the results were devastating. Kitui was especially hard hit with an estimated  mortality rate in Ukambani during the famine at 50 per cent. The devastation brought by this famine had lasting social effects. Community bonds were weakened due to the high death toll. The fact that the wealthier tended to survive while the poorer succumbed brought tension, and in some places a total social breakdown occurred. The drift from the land to the urban centres began,  and Famine Relief camps located at missions and government posts drew people into wage labour for the first time. These trends also weakened the Kamba people's ecological control over their environment.
Land alienation (1900-World War I)
In the colonial language, what amounted to land robbery carried out with the assistance of the state was called land alienation. In the so-called "neo-liberal" era, the language, forms and mechanisms of land expropriation revolve around promoting efficient commercial agriculture and attracting foreign investment. Robbery of land, labour and resources was the basis for accumulation of colonial capital, and impoverishment of the native Africans.  Land was alienated from indigenous users and given to white settlers and colonial companies in the colonies, particularly settler colonies like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The common pattern was to alienate most fertile and productive land to the settlers leaving behind rocky and most unsuitable land for the Africans. The Irish parallel would be Cromwell's "To Hell or to Connaught".
By the end of the colonial period, some 4,000 white farmers had the monopoly of some 16,500 square miles of the so-called White Highlands which contained 30 percent of all good land in Kenya while over five million Africans were bundled into reserves consisting of the worst lands. Under the Land Apportionment Act of Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), some 178,000 Whites got 75,000 square miles of land while 2,290,000 Africans were left with 63,000 square miles. Although huge areas of good land were reserved for the settlers, only small portions of these were actually cultivated. The aim was not only to provide land to the Whites but also to create landlessness among the Blacks so that the Africans had no alternative but to work for European plantations, mines and other enterprises at very low wages. Creation of cheap labour was a deliberate policy of the colonial state.
The system of poll or head tax, under which every adult African male had to pay a fixed amount of tax, whether or not he earned any income, forced the Africans to go and work for European farms and mines. Thus began the dependence on wage income, and the progressive reduction of independence of the farmer/pastoralist. Ukambani was influenced more than other regions of East Africa by the extent of land alienation for settlement of European farmers and ranchers. This led to large-scale displacement and relocation of rural people and dramatic changes in land-tenure systems, a legacy that continues to affect land use and migration in the region.
The first settlers came to Machakos (the district immediately to the west of Kitui) in 1894, but most of the district's land alienation and settlement occurred between 1901 and 1914 .  Approximately 1 million acres were alienated in Ukambani between 1901 and 1914, and large tracts were placed "off limits". The Kamba lost effective access to about two-thirds of the land that they had formerly controlled, including their most fertile lands, half of all their pasture (including their best grazing land), and their freedom to migrate. The stage was set for future drought catastrophes.The Kamba, and their animals, were confined to "Native Reserves" in Machakos and Kitui.  Africans were not permitted to grow certain crops in order not to threaten the white monopoly. The state generally ignored "native" agriculture, while livestock activities were actively curtailed. The veterinary service was preoccupied with quarantining African cattle ostensibly to avoid contaminating European cattle, and an almost continuous quarantine existed from 1901 onward. These quarantines inhibited movement (perhaps exacerbating health problems), contributed to overcrowding of cattle on the reserves, and made it very difficult for the Kamba to sell their cattle outside the reserves.
The Kamba land-tenure system had depended on seasonal and periodic access to large tracts of grazing land. Like many other Kenyan societies, Kamba social organization was based on conditions of abundant land and scarce labour and freedom of movement. Colonialism, by curtailing movement, closing the frontier, taking over existing settled lands, and forestalling the option of opening new lands, reversed these conditions. Land became scarce and labour abundant within a reduced, rigidly bounded area. And of course when a commodity is abundant, its price reduces. So now the Kamba found themselves in a position where the quantity and value of their cattle was depressed, as was the value of their labour.

Land degradation in the 1920s and 1930s  

By 1920, European expansion in Machakos had ended, and the colonial government continued to facilitate the transfer of resources from the reserves to the settlers. On the reserves, population increased, and the economy became more commercial. Land scarcity stimulated settlement in the plains, but poor land, tsetse, lack of water, and the 1924-1925 famine forced an exodus back to the hills, resulting in the virtual depopulation of parts of the plains and increased crowding in the hills. Relatively few Kamba engaged in wage labour through the 1920s, but this began to change by the end of the decade. The retrenchment of population from the plains, coupled with government hostility toward the pastoral sector, led the Kamba to pursue several agricultural innovations on the Machakos Reserve. These included the use of teams of oxen for ploughing and cart transport (allowing acreage increases), new crops, and intensive market gardening, all initiated without government aid . Livestock production did not fare well. 
Disease outbreaks and fear of Kamba pressure for a reinstatement of grazing rights in Machakos and Yatta inspired continued official repression of the pastoral sector, including strict quarantines. During this period, colonial officials and the settlers became increasingly aware of land degradation on the Native Reserves and linked this to cattle. State policy focused on conserving grazing land rather than developing African cattle resources.
Although a few outlets for Kamba pastoral expansion existed in the 1920s, in the 1930s all external options were closed, and any hope for cooperation gave way to increasing regulation, compulsion, and monopoly. In 1929, the highly publicized Hall Commission report elevated erosion in Machakos to the status of one of the most serious problems in all of Kenya, defining it as a major hazard. Contemporary accounts suggested that parts of Kitui were barren and depopulated, that Machakos was eroded down to subsoil over 37 per cent of its area, and that over 1 million acres of the Kamba reserve were damaged and might never recover. The visibility of erosion was increased by the effects of locust invasions in 1929-1931 and a drought from 1931 to 1935.
The inter-war years saw a huge influx of Kamba into the armed services and the Kenya police, especially into the King's African Rifles. One of the primary reasons was the gradual economic transformation of the Kamba Reserves during the 1920s, which had started with the famine of 1917-18 and the decimation of herds. As described above, throughout East Africa, new commercial opportunities and an appetite for material goods - coupled with rising bridewealth costs, the imposition of hut and poll taxes, and a growing land shortage -  led to increased interest in (and a reliance on) money and wage labour. Equally important was that in addition to providing a reliable source of income - the colonial army offered the highest wages for unskilled African labour - military service also granted askaris an exemption from taxation and forced labour. A further reason was the collapse in the traditional trade of the Kamba, which was made impossible by the restrictive nature of the native reserve system.

Kamba Social Structure and Culture

The Kamba were originally grouped into some 25 dispersed patrilineal clans (utui) of varying size, which were often mutually hostile. Their social and territorial boundaries were flexible, and the system seems more to have been a response to fluid geographical groupings rather than strictly determined by ancestry or tradition. There seem to have been few if any institutions of centralized political authority, although in times of external threat, military action could be coordinated across the whole tribe.

Clan meetings are called mbai, and through them political matters that affected the whole tribe were decided.

Traditional Kamba religion resembles that of many Bantu-speaking peoples, such as the Kikuyu, in that there is one supreme god, usually conceived of as male and who can be prayed or sacrificed to, and the existence of spirits.

The Kamba consider the heavens and the earth to be the Father's 'equal-sized bowls': they are his property both by creation and rights of ownership; and they contain his belongings, including livestock, which he lowered from the sky and gave (perhaps 'lent' is more correct) to the Kamba. Nowadays Christianity is the major religion amongst the Kamba people and the population is almost 90% Christian. In the Kitui Diocesan area, approximately 14 to 15% of the population is Roman Catholic.

As in many sedentary pastoralist societies, Kamba marriage practices include the exchange of cattle as a form of bridewealth payment. 

In most cases, the high value of cattle reinforce the authority of older men, as sons usually needed help from their fathers to acquire enough cattle to marry, and inheritance only occurred upon the father's death. The extended family (musyi) forms the basic unit of life among the Kamba, as they share the same lands. The houses are built within the lands, and were traditionally round and thatched to the ground. Nowadays, they're more likely to be rectangular structures built of bricks and breezeblocks, topped with corrugated metal roofs.
Colonialism subverted Kenya's cultures and indigenous educational, legal and political systems. For example, missionaries denounced and colonial authorities progressively restricted and banned wathi - the regular gatherings and celebrations held by the Kamba. The colonialists assailed the local religions, denying them any validity or usefulness, and maligning them as "heathen". Even medicine men were vilified as mere witch doctors. Converts to the new religions had to renounce fully their ancestors' religions. Nonetheless, the inter-war years saw a huge influx of Kamba into the armed services and the Kenya police, especially into the King's African Rifles, which drew soldiers from all of Britain's African colonies. Between 1943 and 1946, nearly one-third of all employed Kamba males were in the military, and were represented in the King's African Rifles at a rate of three to four times their percentage of the overall Kenyan population.