John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
Studies of the Maasai, the Luhya, and Nairobi’s Urban Fringe
4. LAND AND PEOPLE : 023-029

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023. The Luhya are the second largest ethnic group in Kenya, with 21% of the total population compared with 32% for the Kikuyu. They are concentrated in the Western District north of Lake Victoria. Their Luo neighbors belong to the Nilotic-speaking group but the Luhya are Bantus, like the Kikuyu.
024.  Like other members of the Bantu language group, the Luhya came from West Africa originally, arriving in about the fifteenth century. They are not a homogenous community but a mixture of peoples from a variety of tribal backgrounds who share a common language and similar customs.
025. The area in which they live is one of rolling hills and fertile volcanic soils. On the equator at an elevation of 1500 metres temperatures are favourable to growth year-round. They range between a mean daily minimum of 13 degrees in the coldest month and a maximum of 27; and between 14 and 29 in the hottest month. (Near Maseno)
026. Their land is well watered usually, but is subject to occasional dry years which play havoc with farming. Two small forest remnants remain, but the bulk of the land is intensively cultivated. (Kakamega forest) 
027. Shambas (farms) in some areas are microscopic in size, by “First World” standards, and the rural population density south of Kakamega is one of the highest in Africa - over 700 persons per square kilometre, almost all of whom live on farms!
028. In the southern part of the Luhya tribal area the farms average less than half a hectare in size, yet two hectares are required to feed a family of 8 -10 people. Consequently, additional income is necessary to pay for the extra food. 
029. To balance their budgets many families make money from local crafts (pottery, basketry, rope making and so on), some trade at local markets (buying and selling fish for example) and others get jobs (as shop assistants, teachers, and road workers or as labourers on the larger farms north of Kakamega).


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