Marakwet

Henrietta Moore
Matthew Davies
Timothy Kipkeu
Freda M’Mbogori
Helena Chepto
 
 
**The first network field workshop was conducted in Marakwet in December 2013 – click here for further details**
 
 

The Marakwet of northwest Kenya and their neighbors the Pokot are well known for their intensive agricultural practices which involve an extensive network of pre-colonial irrigation channels, small-scale terracing and sophisticated patterns of shifting and permanent fields. The Marakwet and Pokot largely grow maize (introduced in the 1930s), with considerable amounts of finger millet, sorghum and other vegetables introduced during the colonial period. Prior to the introduction of maize the system would have been much more dependent on sorghum as the main crop. Building on long term anthropological and archaeological research, in 2011 we instigated the the Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project which involves the large-scale mapping of Marakwet agriculture, landscape features, demography and the collection of related oral historical records. The project runs through the Marakwet Research Station based in Tot, Marakwet.

Supported by the British Institute in Eastern Africa and funded by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, the project is now in its third year and continues to uniquely utilise a local research team to collect a wide range of data using GPS, digital photography, questionnaires and interviews. Initial project phases focused on settlement patterns, clan and lineage distributions, land-tenure and field systems, irrigation systems, ritual/ceremonial sites and sites with attached stories or myths. Ongoing phases will expand on archaeological understandings of the Marakwet landscape through survey and test excavation and also explore the effectiveness of past development interventions in the region. We also aim to communicate research results back to the community via an interactive online archive and novel use of social media (http://md564.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/technology-social-media-and-public-archaeology-in-africa/).

The project spans the entire Marakwet community but is focused on the village of Sibou and the commercial center of Tot in the north of the region. A major component of the Marakwet project is the training and engagement of an extensive local research team who lead much of the research activity and who can facilitate the research of other international teams. Over the last three years the local research team, headed by Mr Timothy Kipkeu, have developed a wide range of social science research skills allowing for the unique establishment of a permanent research research centre in Tot.

Work at Marakwet led us to establish the African Farming (an interdisciplinary pan-Africa perspective) research network with the aim of learning from and sharing our experiences with projects in other parts of the African continent. As work continues at Marakwet we look forward to working with our local team and the network partners and not only expect our own research to benefit greatly, but also to help develop significant research capacity and local community research engagement across Africa.

Maps and photo gallery

Relevant Publications

Moore, H.L.M. 2011. Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions. Cambridge: Polity Press

Moore, H.L.M. 1986. Space, Text, and Gender: an anthropological study of the Marakwet of Kenya, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davies, M.I.J. and Moore, H.L.M. 2012. The Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project: Report on the second season of fieldwork. McDonald Institute.

Davies, M.I.J. and Moore, H.L.M. 2011. The Marakwet Community Heritage Mapping Project: Report on the first season of fieldwork. McDonald Institute.

Davies, M.I.J. 2014. The temporality of landesque capital: farming and the routines of Pokot life. In Håkansson, T. and Widgren, M. (eds). Landesque capital: the historical ecology of enduring landscape modifications. Left Coast Press, Historical Ecology series.

Davies, M.I.J. 2013. Forced moves or just good moves? Environmental decision making among Pokot farmers, northwest Kenya. In Davies, M.I.J. and M’Mbogori, F.N.(eds). Humans and the environment: new archaeological approaches for the 21st century. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Davies, M.I.J. 2012. Some thoughts on a ‘useable’ African archaeology: settlement, population and intensive farming among the Pokot of northwest Kenya. African archaeological review 29:319-353.

Davies, M.I.J. 2010. A view from the East: an interdisciplinary ‘historical ecology’ approach to a contemporary agricultural landscape in Northwest Kenya. African studies 69:279-297.

Davies, M.I.J. 2008. The irrigation system of the Pokot, northwest Kenya. Azania43:50-76.

Adams, W.M. & Watson, E.E., 2003. Soil erosion, indigenous irrigation and environmental sustainability, Marakwet, Kenya.Land Degradation and Development, 14, pp.109-122.

Soper, R.C., 1983. A survey of the irrigation systems of the Marakwet. In B. E. Kipkorir, R. C. Soper, & J. W. Ssennyonga, eds. Kerio Valley: past present and future. Nairobi: Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi, pp. 75-95.

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