European settler farming

European Settler farming in Kenya

- The main reason why settler farming was established was to set up an economy that would earn money to support the activities of the colonial government.

- This would stop it from seeking funds from the British Government. 

- Most of the land taken was in the highlands where there was suitable climate for settlement and farming.

- These areas also had fertile soils. The region soon became known as the white highlands or crown land.


Areas where settler farming was practised

- Areas that were set aside for settler farming included: parts of Kiambu, Nyeri, Embu, Nyahururu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kericho, Laikipia, Taveta, Kisii and Machakos.

- Most of the land taken was in the highlands where there was suitable climate for settlement and farming. These areas also had fertile soils.

- The region soon became known as the white highlands or crown land.


Below is an image of a European Settler Cattle farm in Kenya.

Effects of settler farming in Kenya

Settler farming had both positive and negative effects.


Positive effects

  • They introduced cash crops which linked Kenya to the international economy through trade.
  • Some of the cash crops introduced such as tea, coffee and pyrethrum still remain Kenya’s leading exports today.
  • They carried out experiments in livestock farming which led to the discovery of animal species that could easily survive in Kenya.
  • They introduced farming using machines. This has led to increased production in the agriculture sector.
  • They introduced the use of fertilisers, herbicides and improved seeds. This improved crop production.
  • Settlers influenced the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway which opened up the interior of the country.


Negative effects of settler farming in Kenya.

  • Africans lost their fertile and productive land to the settlers.
  • Africans were made squatters on the settler farms after they lost control and ownership of their land.
  • Africans were exploited since they were forced to work for little pay in the settler farms so as to pay taxes imposed on them.
  • Settler farmers practised racism and treated Africans as lesser human beings because of their skin colour.
  • Settler farming made the white farmers rich and the Africans poor since most Africans had no fertile land and were not allowed to grow cash crops.

Settlement schemes

Settlement schemes were established by the government to settle landless people who hadvbeen forced out of their land. The land wherevsettlement schemes were established was acquired through the following ways:


a) Buying the crown land

Just before Independence the British government gave money to the colonial government in Kenya to enable it to buy land from the settlers who were leaving the country. These large farms were then sub-divided into smaller units and sold at affordable prices to Africans.


b) Reclamation of land

i) Large areas of land that were found in semi-arid areas were irrigated on a large scale and turned into farming land. They were then used to settle many families. Today, large-scale irrigation schemes are found around Mwea Tebere, Bura, Ahero

and Kibirigwi.

ii) Swampy areas were drained and turned into dry land which was then used for farming. Yala Swamp is one example of such areas.

iii) Getting rid of pests like tsetse flies and mosquitoes. This made the land safe for settlement and the government used it to settle landless people. An example is Lambwe Valley in Nyanza.


Reasons why settlement schemes were set up

a) To settle the many landless people in Kenya.

b) To reduce population in highly populated areas.

c) To increase food by growing crops in the schemes, especially in irrigation schemes like Mwea Tebere.

d) To reclaim fertile land like the Yala swamp and Lambwe Valley in Nyanza province and use it for farming.


Effects of establishing settlement schemes

Some effects were positive while others were negative.


Positive effects

a) The government was able to re-settle landless people.

b) People who were jobless and had no means of earning a living became engaged in farming.

c) Large scale commercial farming has continued since some plantations were retained.

d) Idle and waste land was put into good use after being reclaimed to settle the landless.

e) Food production improved with more land being opened up for cultivation.

f) The government was able to improve roads in the schemes in order to help farmers to transport their goods.

g) People were able to use their title deeds to get loans to improve their farms.

h) People from different parts of the country and from different communities were able to live together in harmony. This created national unity.


Negative effects

a) Most of the small-scale farmers did not have enough money to buy farm machinery and inputs, and this caused a drop in crop production.

b) Many African farmers preferred to grow cash crops on their farms because from these, they could earn money. As a result, fewer people grew food crops and this led to a drop in food production.


Problems facing settlement schemes

Settlement schemes face several problems


a) Increased population has led to a strain on the available land. Some people have subdivided their land further, leaving the plots too small for farming.

b) In some schemes, there was a feeling that land allocation was unfair because it favoured some communities. This created bad feelings between communities.

c) Title deeds were not issued immediately hence denying the people a chance to develop the land.

d) Political and cultural differences among the communities living in the schemes sometimes lead to confl icts.

e) Some settlement schemes lack good roads and essential social facilities.

f) Some settlement schemes have led to deforestation and drying up of water catchment areas.