culture and customs
family life
social change
social relationships
spiritual beliefs

introducing the area


 quotes about development
 key testimonies featuring development

This topic is much discussed, with a strong feeling among narrators that the area is particularly underdeveloped. Many agree, however, that things have improved a little since Mount Elgon acquired its own district status in the early 90s, with some claiming that this change in local administration was a result of the clashes with the Bukusu. The Sabaot felt the Bukusu, who held many of the positions of authority before Mount Elgon was a district in its own right, discriminated against them. Their position of disadvantage was compounded by what they perceive as government indifference at best, and at worst an active favouring of the Bukusu at the expense of Sabaot interests.

There are, however, some narrators who believe that the reasons for the area's lack of development are not only external, but are also linked to poor leadership and internal politics among the Sabaot, as well as their general resistance to and distrust of the outside world. One narrator describes how his personal success resulted from individual perseverance, some outside help, and the fact that he didn't spend his money on drinking traditional beer (busaa). Many local people, he claimed, resented his achievements: "I imagined there must be some fellows whom I have given a headache through development, and they are my colleagues, but they are incapable to develop...I used not to drink, so all my money was going to the useful purpose..." (Kenya 4) . Also, some female narrators - in contrast to the majority who feel Sabaot development has been hindered by Bukusu oppression - believe the main cause of underdevelopment in the region is the lack of tribal diversity and contact with others: "...most of those from different ethnic groups are advanced and we could be imitating what they do, the problem we have is that we are the same ethnic group" (Kenya 1) .

This sense of isolation and lack of exposure to other ways of doing things is increased by the difficulty of travel. One topic on which agreement is universal is the inadequacy of the local roads and the limiting effects on trade and transport: "...poor roads here have tied down development." (Kenya 11) Lack of schools and of educated people is also cited as a reason for underdevelopment, with many feeling that the more educated Sabaot there are, the more likely they will be to have leaders to represent their cause effectively at the national level. "...we emphasise the education of our children as the key to development. And here the issue of the leadership of the community also comes up, because we believe that the development people are demanding can only be seen when we have good leadership..." (Kenya 14)

There is mention of outside interventions from NGOs such as ActionAid, one result of which has been a proliferation of different types of women's groups. As one narrator points out: "With development, you start in the home" (Kenya 6) . One kind is called a merry-go-round, in which money is pooled and made available for essentials for each member in turn. Other examples of women's activities are sharing the cultivation of land, and buying and selling maize together.

quotes about development

".when it comes to the sharing of the national cake, nobody remembers us.Our location in a mountainous region can be an excuse to deny us development, but it can not convince anybody."
Moses, M/36, teacher, Kenya 12

"Most of my age mates...have been unemployed, and it was only until recently, when we were given a district, that they were employed....School you can get civil servants, doctors, teachers, and every ministry employs people."
Lydia, F/24, teacher, Kenya 1

"If we are not going to take more children to school, we are also going to continue being underdeveloped."
Lydia, F/24, teacher, Kenya 1

"The leaders should be the agents of development. The leaders have been chosen by the people to represent them in various organs of government. They are meant to identify the people's problems and then seek for the best possible way to overcome them."
Ben, M/59, local KANU chairman, Kenya 18

"...we have not found leaders that embrace development whole-heartedly."
Masai, M/57, retired primary school teacher, Kenya 11

"When we talk about development, we mean progress as far as today's way of life is concerned. Generally we want to see that the community participates effectively in commerce, agriculture and education...we emphasise the education of our children as the key to development. And here the issue of the leadership of the community also comes up, because we believe that the development people are demanding can only be seen when we have good leadership around...Unity of the people in the face of hostility from our Bukusu neighbours is also seen as a component of development...Therefore development to us is that thing, which will improve our living standards and provide us with security, so that we can do whatever we want to do on our land, without fear."
Hezron, M/48, village elder, Kenya 14

key testimonies featuring development

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   1   Lydia   Female/24   Teacher     
Summary Transcript   11   Masai   Male/57   Retired primary school teacher   Kapsokwony  
Summary Transcript   12   Moses   Male/36   Teacher   Kibuk  
Summary Transcript   14   Hezron   Male/48   Village elder     
Summary Transcript   18   Ben   Male/59   local KANU Chairman   Kopsiro  
Summary Transcript   19   Wycliffe   Male/37   Schools inspector   Kapsokwony  
Summary Transcript   2   Dina and Margaret   Female/42   Dispossessed farmers     
Summary Transcript   3   Lois   Female/   Retired Civil Servant/ Electoral co-ordinator     
Summary Transcript   4   Andrew   Male/50   Teacher/unionist   Masindet village, Kapsokwony  
Summary Transcript   6   Beatrice   Female/43   Chief's wife/businesswoman   Kapsokwony