288 pages, Maps, Photos
This book reveals complex agricultural methods and dynamic farming strategies which evolved long before colonial intervention or recent development projects. These indigenous systems created spectacular landscapes, with terrace walls to conserve the soil and hill-furrow irrigation to supplement low or seasonal rainfall, thus allowing intensive exploitation of all usable land. Mulch or animal manure were applied to boost fertility on regularly planted fields. Labour, communal tasks and the allocation of land and water required social organisation and the use of sanctions. The studies examine 'islands' where intensive devices and integrated systems have been developed and maintained. Sometimes they are in relatively isolated and arid localities but are able to support surprising concentrations of population. These islands of intensive local cultivation are surrounded by a low-density 'sea' of livestock-herders or extensive cultivators. Islands in the Eastern Rift Valley and flanking highlands - Iraqw in Tanzania, Marakwet in Kenya and Konso in Ethiopia - are illustrated by geographers and anthropologists applying an historical perspective. The archaeological example is of Engaruka in a dry stretch of the Rift in northern Tanzania where a cluster of nucleated villages with skilfully engineered irrigation thrived between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
'...a highly readable and closely argued set of case studies that draw on geography, archaeology, social anthropology and economics among other disciplinary approaches.'This is an excellent addition to a very strong and now extensive series published on East Africa by James Currey. It will be of considerable interest to everyone concerned with rural Africa and to rural environment-human interaction in the World's lowest income countries. It would make a valuable accompaniment to textbooks for advanced students of development studies where rural issues or the discourse on population and environmental degradation comprise an element of the focus of study.' - Kenneth Lynch in 'The Geographical Journal'----------
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