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Agricultural frontier, land tenure changes and conflicts along the Gucha-Trans Mara boundary in Kenya

Abstract : Administrative limits do not ordinarily constitute internal boundaries, yet this is the case of the Gucha and Trans Mara boundary between the current counties of Kisii and Narok Countries in south-western Kenya. This boundary which served as a tool for political and administrative control has had a lasting impact on land settlement. Kenya’s territorial heritage proved resilient. It confined the Gusii and the Maasai on either side of the boundary until the 1970s, when the easing of the boundary led to a new phase in the Gusii agricultural frontier to the South, later stopped when land registration started in the 1980s in Trans Mara. The introduction of legal privatization created renewed tension which took a violent turn during the 1990s politically instigated land clashes. ‘Indigenous’ territorial claims coincided with these inherited colonial divisions. Contrasting population densities are found on either side of the boundary with high population densities in the former Gusii reserve compared to the neighbouring Trans Mara. The agricultural frontier was observed in a detailed survey conducted in 1997 and 1998 at the height of politically instigated land clashes. Along this boundary, in half a century, land use was transformed from occasional grazing to intensive agricultural use, with two harvests a year, depending on the political context. The 1990s violent crises lent new vigour to the internal boundary and contributed to the rise of a semipermanent agricultural frontier located along the boundary itself.
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Contributor : Valérie Golaz <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 7:13:06 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, August 29, 2020 - 3:26:32 AM

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Valérie Golaz, Claire Médard. Agricultural frontier, land tenure changes and conflicts along the Gucha-Trans Mara boundary in Kenya. Journal of Eastern African Studies, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2016, 10 (2), pp.229 - 246. ⟨10.1080/17531055.2016.1187814⟩. ⟨hal-01793803⟩

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