By David K. Kay
Walking down the Elgeyo Escarpment through Kacheseker village is always a tricky endeavour, as you head lower and lower the houses and fields become fewer, and the thorny scrub that much denser. The heat and flies also increase, with the simmering haze of the valley floor far below seeming to radiate the intense sunlight back up at you. Before long, the grassy swards and cool forests of the Cherangani hilltops seem like a distant, and much desired, memory. The Marakwet residents of Kacheseker rarely undertake this journey nowadays, though as little as 30-40 years ago it was a common activity, as people carried honey, dried meat and grain to the markets in the Kerio Valley, and led their cattle down to much-needed natural salt licks every three months or so. The new road network, and the availability of commercial salt, has more-or-less negated the need for these journeys, with once-busy footpaths slowly dissolving back into the shifting sediments of the Escarpment. Modern Kacheseker clusters on the Escarpment-top at Embobut, where the best agricultural land, infrastructure and, importantly, other people, are to be found. Over many sweaty weeks of hiking, however, my surveys revealed a pattern of settlement rather different to this modern scene.
By Sam Lunn-Rockliffe
“He was given a permit. This meant he was permitted to graze his cattle in the open area, not to live here. His family and children were living down [on the escarpment]” – Thomas Kosgei Chelanga, Interview 30, 05.03.2017
Admittedly 11:00 am is a little early for a lunch of kichwa kwa kondoo (sheep’s head), especially after a litre of sweet chai and two chapattis for breakfast. However, the opportunity to interview our host for the day Thomas, the son of a community elder who I had previously spoken to on numerous occasions, was too good to pass by. What struck me during our conversation was his passion for delegitimising his father’s claim to the area in forest that his family had lived on prior to the 2013 evictions. As indicated by the above quote, Thomas repeatedly stated that his father Musa had not been born in the forest, but rather on the Elgeyo Escarpment that plunges down to the Kerio valley a few kilometres to the east. He had acquired a permit purely to graze his cattle in the forest glades and, like the other elders, had decided to take up permanent residence inside the forest against the Government’s permission. Thomas’s narrative is particularly unique given that he himself was born in the conservation area and has a stated interest in claiming land rights to his birth place. Yet he remained adamant that this was not his family’s original home.
A new article by Anna Shoemaker, Matthew Davies and Henrietta Moore published in the Journal African Archaeological Review explores the history of food processing (and other substances) in Marakwet through various forms of grinding and pounding. The article traces the history of various food processing practices and particularly changes that occurred with the introduction of different varieties of maize and the introduction of diesel powered flour mills. The article also considers changing communities of practices from more communal forms of crop plant processing to more individualistic/household processes and also differences within the Kerio Valley between the Marakwet and the Pokot. The article also usefully inventories the different substances, especially food plants processed using grinding stones in Marakwet. The full article can be accessed here.
By Bernard K. Wanjohi
Embobut Forest Reserve is the largest of the 13 blocks that constitute the Cherangani water tower. The area is one of the major water towers (catchment basins) in the Cherangani Hills. This area, collectively with other water towers, supplies Eldoret town and its environs. The Embobut River flows along the floor of Kerio Valley, joining the Kerio and flowing into Lake Turkana to the North. Embobut Forest Reserve lies between latitude 01°15′N and longitude 35°35′E.
My Doctoral research is carrying out inventories and monitoring of plant biodiversity as a natural resource, including challenges, threats, and the exploitation of natural vegetation along the Embobut River by adjacent communities, with the specific objectives of:
- Determining the composition, abundance and distribution of different plant species in relation to altitude, aspect, slope, geographical location and disturbances;
- Determining the man-made and natural disturbances in different ecological zones of the Embobut River Basin;
- Documenting the current plant species used by the local community and assessing potential uses of the species occupying the Embobut River Basin and adjacent areas.
by David K. Kay
From January-May this year I was based in Nairobi at the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) as a graduate attaché, in part to broaden my experience of working in East Africa and more specifically to prepare for my forthcoming PhD research with the Marakwet Heritage Project. With the latter aim in mind, from 17th-22nd April I joined my PhD supervisor Prof Henrietta Moore on a trip out to Elgeyo Marakwet County, northwest Kenya, more specifically the town of Tot in the Kerio Valley, to visit the local team of the Marakwet Heritage Project and get some new research projects rolling.
In late 2013 Professor Charly French was able to collect samples and make preliminary observations on the geomorphology and soils of the Tot-Sibou region in northern Marakwet as part of the African Farming Network. These preliminary oberservations were presented on this website in a post back in 2014 – click here for further details.
Since 2013 Professor French has been able to pocess the collected samples and has produced and updated research report which can be downloaded here.
Many thanks to Charly for all his hard work!
French Geoarchaeology of Marakwet 2013 preliminary report update
Collecting soil samples
Collecting soil samples
Soil profile Embobut River
In the following article, Marakwet Heritage Project lead investigator Henrietta L. Moore discusses the growing recognition of agroecological methods.
Terraced fields, Marakwet
vegetable cultivation, Marakwet
Fields and mulch
Re-posted from http://www.farminginafrica.wordpress.com
In December 2013 I was fortunate to be able to make some preliminary observations on the range of plant foods used in the Tot region of Marakwet, Kenya. I was guided in my observations by Ms Helena Chepto from the Marakwet research station.
Have a look at this new article published in the Antiquity on-line project gallery which highlights the participatory community research methods being used in the Marakwet Heritage Project.
The Marakwet Heritage Project research team