“Go Back to the Land!” Negotiating Space, Framing Governmentality in Lambwe Valley, Kenya 1954–75

Maureen Malowany, P. Wenzel Geissler, Albred Lwoba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AbstractIn 1954, the Lambwe Land Trust sought to address colonial concern to contain and control tsetse fly and thus the transmission of human trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in Lambwe Valley, Western Kenya. The Valley needed less tsetse, more people; less bush and more farmed land. Reflecting the confidence of the 1950s to control land, nature, and people, the Lambwe Valley Settlement Scheme (LVSS) was established. While other schemes in Kenya grew out of a tense period of land disputes or mega-economic development, this scheme was much more modest, ensuring that good science and good government would defeat the fly. This article elaborates on both. The first narrative examines the scientific background on trypanosomiasis and tsetse control in this region. The second focuses on the people: African settlers, colonial and African bureaucrats, representing district, provincial, and national governments, engaged in day-to-day planning. Arguments and debates ensued regarding land rights and management, involving local African council and state representatives with their constituents within the context of the settlement scheme. The archival records demonstrated the evolution of a civil society in this remote section of Western Kenya, in spite of an increasingly dominating Nairobi-based government. The records exposed local voices and local visions as ordinary people negotiated their lives in the shadow of big science, big government, and big politics.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)440-479
Number of pages40
JournalCanadian Journal of African Studies / Revue canadienne des études africaines
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


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