Eroding the Commons: The Politics of Ecology in Baringo, Kenya 1890s-1963 (BOK)
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Colonial Baringo was in many respects an unexceptional place, a backwater in the semi-arid Rift Valley of Kenya, lacking in cash crops and distant from larger markets. But in the middle years of colonial rule Baringo's anonymity gave way to notoriety. Prolonged drought and localized famine in the district from the mid-1920s led to claims that Baringo was a land of dramatic decay, brought on by overcrowding and livestock mismanagement. In response to the alarm over erosion, the state embarked upon a programme for rehabilitation, conservation and development. Baringo's experience became a point of reference for similar programmes elsewhere in British Africa, especially in the 1950s when state-led rural development encompassed not just economic growth but an accelerated transformation of African society. The politics of African nationalism was fuelled by opposition to colonial development policies, and in Baringo the politics of the nationalist era was the politics of ecology. The longevity of colonial interventions in Baringo provides an excellent focus for the study of the broader evolution of colonial ideologies and practices of development. These ideologies and practices are fundamental to an understanding of the history of development in all parts of Africa.