By EMMAN OMARI,
Posted Wednesday, April 20 2011 at 14:19
Pressure on land and overpopulation have helped transform the Abagusii into one of Kenya’s most enterprising communities.
Their large number has put a strain on food production in the otherwise fertile county pushing residents into business and farming elsewhere in Kenya and the world.
Kisii county is one of the most densely populated rural area in Kenya charaterised by high fertility rates.
Its 1.1 million people are crammed in area of 1,300 square kilometres. The population density of nearly 900 people per square kilometre is one of the highest in Kenya.
This population explosion has been both a blessing and a curse for the Gusii.
On the negative side, it has led to an increase in crime evidenced by the mushrooming vigilante groups in the county, with the killer Sungu Sungu causing the greatest havoc.
But the surge in population has also forced the people to look at alternative means of earning livelihoods, forcing them to move away from the traditional reliance on maize, coffee and tea farming.
Prof Oeri Tumbo, one of the sons of the county, has an explanation for the business orientation of the Gusii people and their outward migration:
“We have been forced into it by nature,” he said.
“Pressure on the land makes us go to seek property elsewhere and those who remain behind have to be innovative to survive,” said the former principal of the University of Nairobi’s Chiromo campus.
Mr Mogambi Mogaka, who honed his skills among the diaspora in the US before returning to invest in Kisii adds:
“If you try to analyse the communities people who are enterprising come from, you will find common characteristics.”
He named them as the Kikuyu, the Gusii, Asians and Somalis. Mr Mogaka said their regions are beset by land pressure, overpopulation or civil turmoil like Somalia.
“These problems make them think on their feet,” he said.
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