Anthropogenic and Environmental Influences on the Composition, Distribution and Utilisation of Plant Species in the Embobut River Basin, Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya

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.

Project Summary

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.


Roaming the Forests of Embobut: Mapping the Past in the Present

By Sam Lunn-Rockliffe


As we stooped through the twisted doorway into the cramped room, smoke flooded my nostrils and stung my eyes. Two maize cobs sat smouldering near the entrance, forming an oppressive ceiling that swirled under the thatch roof above. To the right stood a bed, the bare slats of which supported the frail man  who Joseph, my research assistant, and I had come to interview as a part of my fieldwork in Embobut. He peeped from under a fraying blanket, chin resting in his hands and skin hugging his bones tightly as he turned and glared blankly through the gloom. Joseph knelt down next to him and conversed in the local Sengwer dialect, asking him if he had time for us to interview him about his past, before turning back to me and saying it was no use. The elderly man was delusional, suffering from dementia and insisting he was going to the forest glades to attend to his beehives. We thanked him before backing out quietly into the blinding sunshine and walking off down the hill to continue with our work for the day.


What’s My Name? The Botanic Worlds of the Kerio Valley, Northwest Kenya

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.


Preliminary study of Marakwet soils and geomorphology

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

Possibilities for studying Marakwet material culture

Freda Nkirote M’Mbogori (National Museums of Kenya)

Material culture images

Unlike many Kenyan Communities, the Marakwet have maintained aspects of their traditional way of life.  This may be partly attributable to politics and bad road networks which have played a role in buffering the community from external influence.  Moreover, the hilly and rocky terrain, coupled with low rainfall regimes have contributed to protection of the Marakwet land from other Kenyan farming communities. While far from isolated the Marakwet have maintained a partially indigenous way of life.


Geoarchaeological assessment of the area around Tot, Marakwet

by Charles French (University of Cambridge)

images of the Marakwet environment


The Marakwet field workshop in December 2013 enabled a geoarchaeological assessment of the landscape character of this region and some initial soil sampling. Particular attention was paid to three areas: first the farm compounds, fields and slope off-take irrigation system occupying the lower slopes to the northwest of the village of Tot; second the River Embobut valley at the base of the slope over a distance of about 4km eastwards; and third the wider valley floor to the southeast-east of Tot and the main River Kerio floodplain and low terrace area towards Pokot where the Canadian Red Cross has extensively cleared land for a new irrigation system and multiple field plots over an area of some 250 hectares.

A more detailed report of these observations and the soil profiles described has been placed on file and will be incorporated into future research. The following provides a brief summary of the observations so far:



Welcome to this new site on Marakwet heritage which has developed out of a range of previous research conducted by Professor Henrietta Moore and Dr Matthew Davies. This site is currently under construction but we look forward to developing and adding to the site over the coming months.

For further information on current projects please see:

You can also find more information via the personal websites of Henrietta Moore and Matthew Davies