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Notes on the Geography of Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba

Exhausted by the traffic of the Ngong and Naivasha roads, we turn blindly onto a side track. Whither, thither, and wherefore?

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Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 1

The setting is the north side of the Rift Valley, the Mau Escarpment, where a field is being prepared the hard way.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 2

The town below is Kijabe. We won't get there.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 3

Instead, there's a quiet lane through this softwood plantation.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 4

What, ho! Shall we call it a Canadian farmstead? Could almost be.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 5

The church is awfully bare. The church here is important, however, because the land all around is now in the hands of Kikuyu parishioners, to whom the missionaries gave shambas, literally "fields." Go back before the missionaries, of course, and the land was already in Kikuyu hands. It's called shuffling the deck.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 6

We stop in a plum orchard. A few sheep look around.

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We're hailed and shown the original house on this land, which has subsequently been subdivided among the children of a very large family.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 8

The father is buried on site, as his children plan to be.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 9

One of the children, who has a job in Naivasha, is building a retirement home for himself.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 10

Water is abundant, both in a local creek and in this well, 90 feet deep.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 11

The land slopes down to a creek, then up to the ridge, where the highway to Nairobi runs. Soil erosion? The owner denies it strenuously and explains that the soil is porous enough to absorb what falls.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 12

Footpaths wind through the property so neighbors can use the shortcut up to the highway.

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You can see one there.

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What have we? Potatoes, one of many crops, everything from carrots to trees for timber.

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The patches are very small. The owner himself hires laborers to do the work. A half-day's work earns $2.

Kenya: Rift Valley Shamba picture 16

A pool in the creek.


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