Cultures in Context Series
AFRICAN HABITATS :
FOREST, GRASSLAND AND SLUM
Studies of the Maasai, the Luhya, and Nairobiís Urban Fringe
9. The Okala Shamba : 080-086
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|080. The Okalaís live near Kima, in the Bunyore region, 35 km south west of Kakamega, in an area with an even higher population density. Farms here are typically half a hectare in size: so, with a minimum of two hectares required per family, one or more members of each family must earn money to buy more food.
|081. Common ways to do this are to make pots, weave baskets or make ropes; trade at local markets (possibly buying fish in Luanda and re-selling it locally); work as a shop assistant, a teacherís aide, or a laborer on the roads; or hire oneself out to a neighbor with a larger holding -- to plough, weed, or pick coffee as here.
|082. Mr. and Mrs. Okala built a solid home for their 9 children -- 2 in secondary school, 5 in primary, and 2 of pre-school age. With a small farm and many mouths to feed they could not hope to grow enough food to feed themselves, even if the entire shamba was planted to corn and beans twice yearly.
|083. They can afford to buy food (and operate a motor car) because both are school teachers -- he secondary, she primary. As there is no shortage of girls in this area keen to work as ayahs (nannies) it is possible for women with young children to work away from home.
|084. Since I stayed with them the area under corn and beans has been reduced, by a son marking out a house and compound of his own. And part of the eucalyptus plantation has been cleared to make way for food crops.
|085. Sugar growers are paid a lump sum following the harvest -- the first time many have seen that much money: but coffee growers, in contrast, are paid smaller amounts at intervals throughout the year and so never have the same opportunity to invest large sums in additional land or a vehicle.
|086. Coffee is typically dried in the sun before being taken to the factory for processing. The Okala family have about 300 trees.
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