Social and Political Organisation of the Luo

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CHAPTER TWO Pre-Colonial Fishing Practices in Lake Victoria: 1880-1894


This chapter discusses the indigenous fishing methods and fish management practises of the Luo who lived and fished around the shores of Lake Victoria from 1880. It highlights the various types of fishing gear, such as gogo and kira, which ensured the sustainability of the fisheries before colonialism brought with it new fishing technologies. It also explains how fishing was organised and elucidates, in particular, the gender and age divisions in the fishery. It suggests that age and gender underpinned the division of labour within the fishery and looks at the evolution of technology especially fishing gear and canoes and preservation techniques such as sun drying and smoking. The chapter emphasises that before the coming of colonialism, African fishers (Jo-Lupo) had developed mechanisms of fishing, management, preservation and marketing of catches. It also discusses the introduction of gill nets in 1905 and the impact of this net on fishing and fisher livelihoods. Finally, the chapter looks at early efforts by the colonial state to conserve and manage the Lake fisheries, as well as the fishers’ response to these state interventions.

Patterns of Luo Settlement

From southern Sudan the Luo moved up the Nile and interacted with the peoples they encountered en route, learning new techniques of agriculture, livestock-keeping and fishing. Ehret states that by 1800 Western Kenya was beginning to take on the ethnic and linguistic appearance of the present. In linguistic terms Luo had largely replaced the Luyia dialects as the speech of Central Nyanza.121 121 C.Ehret, ‘Aspects of Social and Economic Change in Western Kenya, A.D. 500-1800’ in B.A. Ogot, Kenya Before 1900, (Nairobi, EAPH, 1986), p. 8.Ehret observes that the interaction between Luo and other peoples in the Elgon-Nyanza region between 500 C.E. and 1800 brought widespread and far-reaching social and economic change.122 Due to their preference for lowlands, the Luo settled along the lakeshore, which gave them the opportunity to include fishing in their repertoire of economic pursuits alongside cultivation and cattle keeping. It is necessary, however, to ask what the nature of the social, economic and political organisation of the Luo fishers was. Numerous studies have investigated Luo socio-economic and political organisation.123 According to Ogot, the Luo ‘had always fought to occupy lowlands where they could get access to water and pasture grounds because of their pastoralist lifestyle, which was reflected in the almost religious esteem in which they had held their cattle’.124 Having migrated in three groups, namely jok-Owiny, jok-Omolo and Luo-Basuba from southern Sudan in the fourteenth century, the Luo settled along Lake Victoria and throughout Western Kenya. Although they followed the Nile to Lake Victoria, their settlement around the Lake was not motivated by the search for fish although fishing, according to oral tradition, later became an important economic pastime.125 Gedion Were asserts that by the middle of the seventeenth century the Luo were already occupying parts of their present country in Western Kenya. Eric Baker, writing in 1950, asserts that the Luo and related peoples came “from south Sudan and moved southwards towards modern Kenya between 700 and 800 years ago.”126 He points out that in the course of these migrations, the Luo and their Nilotic cousins split into various ethnic groups as follows: the Acholi remained in Northern Uganda, the Alur moved westwards into the present west Nile District of Uganda and the Belgian Congo, the Paluo settled in North Bunyoro, Padhola went south-east as far as Tororo (in Uganda) and the Jaluo of Kenya crossed the lake Some of them landed around Kisumu and settled in the Nyando Valley and the area along the lake shore as far as Uganda border and others settled in Tanganyika.

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Introduction: Fisheries Development, Indigenous Knowledge and Agency 
1.1: Study Area 
1.2: Social and Political Organisation 
1.3: Statement of the Problem 
1.4: Research Question 
1.5: Objectives
1.6: Periodisation 
1.7: Justification of the Study 
1.8: Hypotheses 
1.9: Methodology
1.10 Colonial archival Documents 
1.11 Oral Interviews
1.12: Theoretical Framework 
1.13: Literature Review 
1.14: Conclusion
CHAPTER TWO  Pre-Colonial Fishing Practices in Lake Victoria, 1880-1894
2.1: Introduction 
2.2: Patterns of Luo Settlement 
2.3: Social and Political Organisation of the Luo
2.4: The Role of Women 
2.5: Indigenous Systems of Management and Organisation 
2.6 Conservation Rules and Regulations 
2.7: Indigenous Fishing Technology 
2.8: Evolution of Fishing Canoes
2.9: Fish Species in Lake Victoria 
2.10: Indigenous Methods of Preservation 
2.11: Conclusion 
CHAPTER THREE  Colonial Policy and the Coming of New Gear and Warnings on Over- fishing: 1895-1920
3.1 Introduction 
3.2: The Coming of Colonial Rule 
3.3: The Coming of the Flax Gill Net 
3.4: The Colonial State and Fish Production 
3.5: The First World War and Fishing 
3.6: The Colonial State Management Ordinances
3.7: The Fishers’ Responses to State Ordinances 
3.8: Conclusion 
CHAPTER FOUR The Policies on Accessibility and Management Fisheries: 1921-1944
4.1: Introduction 
4.2: Colonial Policies and Fear of Overfishing 
4.3: Labour Supply
4.4: Open Access or Closed Acess on Lakes and Rivers 
4.5: Regulation through Local Councils 
4.6: Licensing as a Regulatory Mechanism 
4.7: Statutory Bodies
4.8: Lake Victoria Fishery Boards and Other Bodies 
4.9: Conclusion
CHAPTER FIVE  Fish Marketing, Distribution Process and Co-operatives: 1945-1954
5.1: Introduction 
5.2: Fishmongers and Middlemen 
5.3: The Wholesalers and the Bicycle 
5.4: Advent of Co-operatives and Supply of Nets 
5.5: Fishing Scouts, Politics and Licensing 
5.6: Fish Marketing and Storage Problems 
5.7: Conclusion 
CHAPTER SIX  Commercialisation, New Species and Technology: 1954-1965
6.1: Introduction 
6.2: New Technology 
6.3: Alien Commercial Species 
6.4: Commercialisation of Fishery 
6.5: Fishers’ Coping and Survival Techniques 
6.6: Challenges to Fishers and Traders 
6.7: Characteristics of Coping Strategies 
6.8: Conclusion 
CHAPTER SEVEN  The Crisis of Expectation: Challenges of Development, 1966-1978
7.1: Introduction
7.2: Fishing Investments and the Government of Kenya 
7.3: Mechanisation of Fishing 
7.4: Challenges in Fishery Investment
7.5: Persistence of Colonial Ordinances
7.6: Conclusion 
Summary and Conclusions


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