Economic change in South Nyanza, Kenya, 1880 to 1945

Onduru, Timothy Ayieko
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Abstract This thesis is concerned with the process of economic change in South Nyanza between 1880 and 1945. By economic change I mean the way commodity production in South Nyanza was transformed during the pre-colonial and colonial period. The study commences from 1880 to enable an analysis of the process of change during the precolonial era so as to provide a background to understand the changes that occurred during the colonial period. The study ends in 1945 to incorporate an analysis of the changes that took place during the Second World War. The study demonstrates that economic change took place during the pre-colonial and colonial era. During the pre-colonial period, changes were necessitated by the outbreak of cattle epidemics that decimated livestock in the area. This forced the households in South Nyanza to shift to crop production as a primary economic activity. The shift was also facilitated when some households moved from the lakeshores to high grounds, which were more favourable to agricultural production. When South Nyanza was colonised by Britain in 1903, the pre-capitalist economy of the area was integrated into colonial capitalism. This was a system of production of goods and services for market exchange in order to make a profit. This introduced new changes in the economic, social and political relations among the households in South Nyanza. The establishment of colonial rule in South Nyanza was marked further by the process of change, which was already in progress. The colonial administration in South Nyanza introduced into the area new cash crops that the households in the area could produce to generate cash to meet the new colonial demands. The integration or rejection of the cash crops into the local economy was determined by their cash value and palatability. To promote effective agricultural production in the area, the administration introduced new agricultural implements into South Nyanza. The adoptability of these implements by the people of South Nyanza was determined by their effectiveness and affordability. In addition, the establishment of colonial rule in South Nyanza was also marked by the introduction of a new economic system, migrant wage labour. During the first two decades of colonial rule, the households in South Nyanza were reluctant to engage in migrant wage labour because they were able to meet their colonial demands such as taxation from agricultural and livestock produce. But as the colonial demands increased, the people of South Nyanza were increasingly engaging in migrant wage labour. This was further enhanced by the establishment of infrasructure in South Nyanza that linked the area to the main centers of economic activities.