Location and size Kakamega
County is one of the 47 counties in the Republic of Kenya. It borders Vihiga County to the south, Siaya County to the West, Bungoma County to the North and Nandi County to the East. The county covers an area of 3050.3 Km2 (Kakamega CDP, 2013). The altitude of the county is between 1,240 metres and 2,000 metres above sea level.
Administrative and political units
Kakamega County has 12 constituencies, 12 sub-counties, 24 divisions, 72 locations and 233 sub locations as indicated in the table below
Administrative and political units
|Constituencies||Sub-counties||Area Km2||No. of divisions||No. of
|No of Sublocations|
|Kakamega North||Kakamega North||427.4||5||14||52|
Source: Kakamega County Development Profile (2013)
According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing and Census (KPHC) report, the total population in the county is 1,660,651 consisting of 797,112 males and 863,539 females.
In 2012 this population was projected to be 1,789,989. It is also expected to rise to 1,929,401 and 2,028,324 by 2015 and 2017 respectively. The labour force is projected to be 889,552 in 2012 representing 49.7% of the county population. This consists of 471,779 females and 417,773 males. In 2015, the labour force is projected to be 958,834 persons and projected to be 1,007,994 persons by 2017.
According to the Population and Housing Census of 2009, the unemployed population in the county was 196,938. This implies that majority of the people in the labour force are not gainfully employed. People employed by sector were: 756,711 in the agriculture sector, 34,052 in self-employment, and 2,554 in wage employment, while 54 were in urban self-employment. Sectors which form a substantial number of self-employed persons include the Jua Kali, cottage industries and boda boda. In agriculture, self-employed persons engaged mostly in land ploughing, weeding, bush clearing, planting, harvesting and post-harvest handling. Others are engaged in mining, forestry, brick making and building construction.
Land availability and use
The two main ecological zones in the county are the Upper Medium (UM) and the Lower Medium (LM). The UM covers the central and southern parts of the county wherel intensive farming of maize, bean and horticulture is carried out by small scale farmers with a section of the population practicing large scale farming. The Lower Medium (LM) zone, covers a major portion of the northern part of the county where the main economic activity is sugarcane farming. The average land holding size in the county is 0.57ha. Generally Butere Mumias sub county, Kakamega East, North and South sub counties have lower average land holdings as compared to the upper parts of Lugari Sub County. This land subdivision due to the high population in the sub counties, other than Lugari, is considered to be uneconomical.
It is estimated that in 2012 only 38.6% of the population had title deeds for the land they occupy. This may be attributed to the lengthy adjudication processes and the land tenure system. In the county cases of landlessness within the county are few since most people live on their ancestral land. There are a few cases of internally displaced people as a result of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
The main crops grown in Kakamega County are sugarcane, maize, bean, cassava, finger millet and sorghum. Maize forms the staple food for the county. Cattle, is reared by 53.2% of the population while 22.2%, 11.2%, and 1.6% of the population rear sheep, goats and pigs respectively. Chicken rearing is pre-dominant with 92% of the households keeping them while 0.7% keep donkeys. About 19.15 million litres of milk are produced annually while 364,000 kg of beef is also produced per year.
The annual rainfall range is between 2214.1mm and 1280.1 mm per year. This rainfall is evenly distributed all year round, with March and July receiving heavy rains while December and February receives light rains. The temperatures range is between 180 C and 290C. The hottest months are November, December, January and February. Other months have relatively higher and similar temperatures. The county has an average humidity of 67%. Kakamega County has a natural forest covering Shinyalu and Lurambi while other farm forests have been integrated with agriculture. It has one gazetted and one non-gazetted forest which occupy 188.7ha, and 26.5ha respectively. The gazetted natural forest covers an approximate area of 188.7 km2. The non-gazetted forests cover an approximate area of 26.5 km2. Commercial forests are found in the northern parts of the county.
The county mines 592,941 tons of murram, 278,000 tons of sand, 51,968 tons of ballast, and 148,920 tons of hard-core every year. About 80,271 people in the county are engaged in mining and related activities. There is also a section of the community that is engaged in small scale gold mining.
These forests which are home to indigenous trees, large species of birds, butterflies, monkeys, snakes, baboons, hares, and rabbits also provide a tourism attraction in the region, and research sites for a number of institutions in the country. Other attractive activities include bull fighting and cock fighting. The crying stone in Elesi and the preserved ancient Wanga Kingdom in Mumias attract a number of people to the county.
Role of agriculture in the county
The county depends primarily on agriculture and most farmers grow sugarcane as the main cash crop. Most of the food crops are grown on a small scale annually. The main crops are sugarcane, maize, bean, cassava, finger millet and sorghum. Maize forms the staple food for the county. Maize and sugarcane are generally grown on large scale while bean, millet and sorghum are grown on small scale; the main cash crops grown are maize, tea and sugarcane. The total acreage under food crops is 114,053.6 hHa while the acreage under cash crops is 141,429.7 ha. This totals to 255,483.30 ha. The average farm size in the county is 3 ha for small scale holders while large scale holders have an average of 10 ha.
Fish is cultured in ponds in the county. Tilapia and cat fish form the main fish species cultured. Currently, there is a fish processing factory being constructed in the county and upon completion, it will improve on valued addition to the fishing enterprises.
The table below shows the production and value of crop commodities in the county.
Crop production the County
|Crop||Price/unit (KES)||Production (Tons)|
|Dry maize||2,341 per 90 Kg bag||168,256.71|
|Bean||58.50 per Kg||25,353.45|
|Tea||260 per Kg||2,797|
|5503 per 140 Kg bag||32,370|
Source: Economic Review of Agriculture, 2012
Table below shows the production and value of livestock and livestock products in the county.
Quantity and value of livestock and livestock products
|Product||Quantity||Value (KES million)|
|Average Poultry meat (MT)||47.6||7.13|
Source: Kakamega County Development Profile, 2013
The Luhya tribe, also known as the Abaluhya, Baluhya, or Abaluyia, is a Bantu tribe living in Kenya's agriculturally fertile western region. They are neighbors to some of the Nilotic tribes, including the Luo, Kalenjin, Maasai and Teso (Iteso).
Luhyas are Kenya's second largest ethnic tribe following the Kikuyu, and they account for 14 percent of the Kenyan population.
Though considered one tribe, the Abaluhya consist of over 18 sub-tribes, each speaking a different dialect of the Luhya language. The Bukusu and Maragoli are the two largest Luhya sub-tribes. Others include the Banyala, Banyore, Batsotso, Gisu, Idakho, Isukha, Kabras, Khayo, Kisa, Marachi, Marama, Masaaba, Samia, Tachoni, Tiriki and Wanga.
History of the Luhyas
The true origin of the Abaluhya is disputable. According to their own oral literature, Luhyas migrated to their present day location from Egypt (north of Kenya). Some historians, however, believe that the Luhya came from Central and West Africa alongside other Bantus in what is known as the Great Bantu Migration.
The Luhya tribe, like many other Kenyan tribes, lost their most fertile land to the colonialists during the British colonial rule of Kenya. The Abaluhya, and especially the Bukusu, strongly resisted colonial rule and fought many unsuccessful battles to regain their land. The Wanga and Kabras sub-tribes, however, collaborated with the colonialists.
Luhya culture and lifestyle
Traditionally, the extended family and the clan were at the center of the Luhya culture. Luhyas practiced polygamy, and a man was given more respect depending on the number of wives he had. This is because only a very wealthy man could afford to pay the dowry (bride price) for several wives. The dowry was paid in the form of cattle, sheep, or goats. Today, polygamy is no longer widely practiced, but dowry payment is still revered in some Luhya communities. Instead of giving cattle, sheep, or goats as the bride price, one may pay a dowry in the form of money. However, marrying a person from one's own clan is considered taboo.
Traditional male circumcision is an important ritual in most Luhya sub-tribes. It marks the initiation from boyhood to manhood. The modern and educated Luhyas continue to choose to circumcise their sons in hospitals upon birth. However, among some factions of the Bukusu and Tachoni, traditional circumcision ceremonies still take place every August and December.
Luhyas and sports
Luhya people are great sports enthusiasts, especially when it comes to rugby and soccer. Many Luhyas show wide support for the AFC Leopards soccer club, which they consider to be their own. The club was formed in the early 1960s under the name Abaluhya Football Club, and has traditionally had a bitter rivalry with Gor Mahia FC, a club associated with the Luo. In Kenya's football history, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia FC were, for a long time, the best soccer teams in the country. Luhyas produced most of the players on Kenya's national soccer team, the Harambee Stars.
Traditional bullfighting is still considered a sport among sections of the Luhya ethnic tribe. The annual bullfighting competition attracts many spectators, including Dr. Bonny Khalwale, the current member of Parliament (MP) for Ikolomani.
Faith and religion of the Abaluyias
Today, most people from the Luhya tribe are Christians; however, it is common to find some Luhyas mixing Christianity with aspects of African traditional religion. For example, Dini ya Msambwa, a religion whose adherents are mostly Luhyas, uses portions of the bible for its doctrine while practicing traditional witchcraft at the same time. God, in Luhya language, is Nyasaye, a name borrowed from their Nilotic Luo neighbors.
Luhya tribe's economic activities
Like other Kenyans, Luhyas are involved in almost every sector of Kenya's economy. For example, in most urban areas, there are as many Luhyas working as professionals as there are working as semi-skilled laborers. In their native Western Kenya region, Luhyas practice farming and agriculture, growing sugarcane and other cash crops specific to the region. Most of the sugar consumed in Kenya is produced in Mumias, a Luhya land. Other agricultural products grown by the Luhya include maize (corn) and wheat.
Ugali, known as obusuma in the Luhya language, is the traditional food of the Abaluhya. Ugali is made from either maize flour or cassava, or millet flour. It is usually served with chicken. While Luhyas eat many other foods, a meal is never complete without some ugali.
The Wanga (AbaWanga) are a nation of the Luhya people and a historical Kingdom within present day Kenya. They mainly occupy Kakamega County, one of the most densely populated counties in Kenya. The Wanga Kingdom was the most highly developed and centralised kingdom in Kenya’s entire history before the advent of British colonialism in the early 1900s. Today the AbaWanga number around 732,000 and retain the Nabongo as their cultural monarch. The current Nabongo is Peter Mumia II
The Wanga ancestors were part of the migration that settled in the Kampala area and formed the Buganda Kingdom. In their culture, a king’s brother or cousin from the paternal line is eligible for succession to the throne and thus poses a threat to the reigning monarch. Accordingly, a Baganda omulangira (prince) called Kaminyi, a son of Mawanda of Buganda fled to the Tiriki area in the current Western Province area in the upheaval that followed the murder of his father by a group of Ganda princes led by his cousin Mwanga I of Buganda. There Kaminyi became a ruler and was succeeded by his son Wanga, who took the title Nabongo and established the Wanga Kingdom in the 18th Century.
Today the Wanga predominantly inhabit Butere/Mumias District, Kakamega County of Kenya.
Map of the Wanga Kingdom
The formation of the Wànga Kingdom led to rapid territorial and political expansion especially in the latter years of the 18th century. Earlier on and throughout its history, the Wanga Kingdom was prone to succession feuds the most notable resulting in the splitting of the the kingdom when the sons of Nabongo Osundwa rivalled each other over the throne. The eldest son, Kweyu was outwitted by a younger one called Wamukoya Netia, who then succeeded Osundwa. In protest, Kweyu seceded and founded Wanga Mukulu (Upper Wanga). Wamukoya Netia ruled Wanga Elureko (Lower Wanga). The two states co-existed but Wanga Elureko rightfully remains the Wanga Kingdom (it retained the royal regalia of the great Nabongo Wanga), was larger, more prominent and better organised. During his reign, Nabongo Wamukoya Netia employed the Uasin Gishu Maasai to raid neighbours for cattle and his successors did the same. Nabongo Wamukoya Netia was a notorious trickster who enjoyed killing people especially his Maasai mercenaries. The treachery of Nabongo Wamukoya Netia was designed to eliminate the Maasai as an alternate power source at his court as well as designed to strengthen his personal power.When the mercenaries discovered his treachery they revolted. Nabongo Shiundu,(1841—1882) Wamukoya Netia’s son and heir, established effective and respectable authority and it was during his reign that the Wanga Kingdom reached its greatest extent.
The kingdom was visited by Arab and Swahili slave traders which explains the high incidence of Islamic presence amongst the Wanga compared to other Luhya. The slave traders operated from Elureko (future Mumias) against the fragmented Bukusu in the north and the Jo-Ugenya in the south from 1878 from whom they captured a lot of slaves and exported. The most notorious slave-raiders were Sudi of Pangani and Abdulla bin Hamid of Mombasa.
Family and Traditional Life
Fullscale model of traditional Wanga homestead
The Wanga Kingdom is a confederation of 22 co-equal clandoms called Tsihanga (singular lihanga) which traditionally were in turn divided into tsimbia (singular oluhyia). Tsimbia were divided into tsingongo (singular olukongo). The common denominator of administration at all levels except the family, was the clan Council of Elders (Abakofu bakali or Abakali be Lizokho) headed by a chief or Liguru. The clan council of elders composition depended on the size of the area. The Liguru and council of elders were independent, but subject to the Nabongo who exercised indirect influence over them in the regions. At the court, his influence was direct. He appointed Abakali belitokho, (the king’s elders at Court) Weyengo (i.e. Chief Judge) and Eshiabusi (the Judge). The Nabongo was the executive head of the central government. He was the final counsellor and adviser, because he was automatically regarded as wise, benign, benevolent and neutral. The Nabongo was the source of peace and stability. He was also the custodian of traditions and customs of the royal dynasties.
The Nabongo was the head of the legislative and executive bodies. He was assisted in these bodies by the courtiers. These were experts in military matters, foreign affairs and rain-making. There were also members of the judiciary headed by Weyengo. They constituted the Court of Appeal. Eshiabusi linked the executive and the judiciary. The elders in his council were voluntary members. They were assisted by legal experts drawn from the local government. The Weyengo presided over all deliberations. It was this arrangement which reduced the chances of a civil war. The power struggle was restricted in Abashitsetse dynasty.
The Nabongo is and was the custodian of traditions and customs of the land. He guarded the royal regalia which consisted of the copper bracelet and sacred spears – likutusi and lishimbishira – of the great Nabongo Wanga.
Traditionally agriculture was an important aspect among the AbaWanga they practiced crop farming. They planted sorghum and millet and also engaged in pastoralism as well as fishing and animal hunting of gazelles and antelopes. Gazelle horns were used as a communication tool in the ancient days to summon the AbaWanga for meetings. The Wanga were also very advanced in ironworks (see images below).
examples of Wanga Ironworks
The Wanga also developed an advanced military system consisting of clan regiments who went to war in distinct full war regalia made of the colobus monkey skin, a spear and shield (ingabo) and headgear identifying clan and age-set. Leisure and entertainment normally went hand in hand amongst the Wanga. Traditional smoke pipes and bao (olukho) would go together after a hard day’s work as men chatted away while women prepared meals.
Also traditionally, the extended family and the clan were at the center of the Wanga culture. AbaWanga practiced polygamy, and a man was given more respect depending on the number of wives he had. This is because only a very wealthy man could afford to pay the dowry (bride price) for several wives. The dowry was paid in the form of cattle, sheep, or goats. Today, polygamy is no longer widely practiced, but dowry payment is still revered in amongst the Wanga. Instead of giving cattle, sheep, or goats as the bride price, one may pay a dowry in the form of money. However, marrying a person from one’s own clan is considered taboo, because of this every Wanga is descended from a Nabongo and through common descent, to Nabongo Wanga. Traditional male circumcision is an important ritual amongst the AbaWanga. It marks the initiation from boyhood to manhood. The modern and educated AbaWanga continue to choose to circumcise their sons in hospitals in the traditional circumcision years every August and December.
Ugali, known as obusuma in LuWanga, is the traditional food of the Wanga. Ugali is made from either maize flour or cassava, or millet flour. It is usually served with chicken. While the AbaWanga eat many other foods, a meal is never complete without some ugali.
The following are the Tsihanga (clans) of AbaWanga with the reference to female given in brackets: 1. Abashitsetse (Bwibo); 2. Abakolwe (Nabakolwe); 3. Abaleka (Nabaleka); 4. Abachero (Njero); 5. Abashikawa (Nashikawa); 6. Abamurono (Oronda); 7. Abashieni (Shieni); 8. Abamwima (Namwima); 9. Abamuniafu (Ngakhwa); 10. Abambatsa (Luleti); 11. Abashibe (Nashibe); 12. Ababere (Nebere); 13. Abamwende (Luchimbo); 14. Abakhami (Nabakhami); 15. Abakulubi (Akwanyi); 16. Abang’ale (Namang’ale); 17. Ababonwe (Nbonwe); 18. Abatsoye (Nabatsoye); 19. Abalibo (Namwasi); 20. Abang’ayo (Nang’ayo); 21. Ababule (Nabule); 22. Abamulembwa (Namulembwa).
The Extent of the Wanga Kingdom
There are two versions regarding the extent of the Wanga Kingdom. The first version is that the Wanga Kingdom extended as far west as Buganda; as far south as Samia; as far north as Mount Elgon and as far east as Naivasha. This version was advanced by the AbaWanga, and the British imperialists supported it in order to get allies in the imposition of colonial rule. The second version is that the Wanga Kingdom coincided in size with North Kavirondo, later called North Nyanza, i.e the present Western Province.
Nabongo Mumia Shiundu
Although other great Nabongos predated him, it is Nabongo Mumia Shiundu who is widely regarded as the last great ruler of the Wanga Kingdom largely because of his interaction with and management of the British colonial transition. You cannot talk about the AbaWanga without recognising the role of Nabongo Mumia who ruled the Wanga Kingdom at a time when Africa was getting into colonial contact with Europeans and Arabs. Mumia, from whose name the administrative town of Mumias is derived, ruled the Kingdom for 67 years from 1882 to 1949 in one of the longest epochal reigns in African history. When the British arrived in Western Kenya in 1883, they found the Wanga Kingdom as the only organized state with a centralised hereditary monarch in the whole of what later came to be known as Kenya. Mumia died in 1949 and was succeeded by his son Nabongo Shitawa.
Mumia was born a prince between 1849 and 1852: His parents were Nabongo Shiundu Wamukoya and his mother,Wamanya. There is little information about the early life of Mumia. He grew up as an ordinary child. Before the age of 18 years, he looked after cattle and played games such as wrestling, tug-of-war, gliding on slippery slopes and jumping in a loop. He socialised like any Wanga child. For instance, in the evenings, he kept fire burning and exchanged stories and proverbs. He trapped animals like the hare, moles- and squirrels. He also chased away birds which destroyed crops. The interesting aspect of young Mumia was that he was timid and shy to strangers. Shiundu concluded that Mumia was weak and feminine in character, and he refused to appreciate his good qualities. For example, Mümia was slender-and tall, had a deep voice, and was a pleasant young man. These qualities commanded respect among his peers. However, Shiundu did not prepare him to be a King.
Mumia succeeded his father not by tradition but through circumstances. The eldest son, Mulama, who was supposed to succeed by tradition, died when he was young. Luta was next in the line but Wamanya wanted her only child to be king and she was aware of Shiundu’s low rating of Mumia’s character. She therefore manoeuvred, intrigued and succeeded in making Mumia the Nabongo. She tricked Luta into wearing shimbishira (head-dress) meant for heroes. That meant that Luta wanted to depose his father and inherit the throne. It had not happened before. Shiundu therefore acted swiftly and promptly. He disinherited Luta both of the Nabongoship and property. He even threatened to appoint a female heir. It was suggested to him by his advisers who had been courted by Wamanya, that Mumia should inherit the Nabongoship. Shiundu did not appoint another heir until the eve of his death when he reluctantly accepted Mumia as his successor.
Addendum – October 2013
Much has been written about Nabongo Mumia, his long reign and its impact on both the Wanga Kingdom and present day Kenya by notable scholars such as John N. B. Osogo (Nabongo Mumia of the Baluyia, 1970, East African Literature Bureau), Simon Kenyanchui (Nabongo Mumia, 1992, Heinemann Kenya) and Shadrack Amakoye Bulimo (Luyia Nation: Origins, Clans and Taboos, 2013, Trafford Publishing). There is still a lot of debate about the inevitability that colonialism brought to many African nation groups but undoubtedly some of them adjusted better to the new realities than others. Nabongo Mumia took three major decision points that greatly affected not only his reign but the destiny of the AbaWanga to this day. These are;-
- Education:on initial contact with the British, the Nabongo was rightfully suspicious of their motives and rejected quite a number of their proposals which he saw would reduce his authority. One of these proposals was the establishment of faith based educational institutions firstly by missionaries and later by the colonial government amongst the AbaWanga. Communities that took up education in colonial Kenya established themselves as front-runners for the new opportunities of vocation, business and political positioning in post-colonial Kenya.
- Islam:Nabongo Mumia enabled the establishment of Islam among the Wanga because of his suspicion of the British and their faith/education systems. He had been visited by Arab and Swahili slave traders early in his reign and had been impressed with their cunning and trading skills. However, he was reluctant to allow the spread of Islam amongst the AbaWanga and only permitted Islamic proselytizing as a means to establish political buffer against the British. Today as many as 20% of AbaWanga are Muslim and constitute a distinct socio-political group not only within the Kingdom but among the Luhya community. Thus any present and future decisions among the AbaWanga have to factor in the standards of the Muslim community.
Coronation of King Edward VII of Britain:in 1901 Queen Victoria of Britain died and was succeeded by her son Edward VII who scheduled his coronation for 1902. Nabongo Mumia was among many invitees to London for the event. He set out for the long journey that would have involved taking a ship from Mombasa. He made it to Mombasa where unfortunately he was convinced by his Swahili and Arab friends that the British had intentions of either holding him captive in London, deporting him to the Seychelles like they did to Omukama Kabarega of Bunyoro in 1899 or appointing someone else as Nabongo. The Nabongo then made the fateful decision to turn back and not proceed to the London coronation. Whilst it made practical sense, other kingdoms in the region like the Buganda, Bunyoro, Tooro were represented which established them as “Friends of the British Empire” and thus were heavily factored in by the British in all political dispensations in the region. There is a high possibility that the AbaWanga kingdom would have been set aside as a distinct federal entity in Kenya had Nabongo Mumia made it to London to honor their invite.
Kakamega derives its modern name from the local dialect. The story goes that when European settlers first visited the area now known as Kakamega and were offered maize meal, the local staple food called Obusuma, they tried to emulate the eating style for which the tribe was famous. To the hosts though, the visitors were more like ‘pinching’ the Obusuma. The resulting administrative area was named ‘Kakamega’, which roughly translates to ‘pinch.’
Crying Stone of Ilesi
Local Inhabitants are mostly the Luhya tribe, whose economic activity is mainly farming and fishing.
Kakamega serves as the headquarters of Kenya's largest sugar producing firm, Mumias Sugar, located in the village of Mumias.
Kakamega was the scene of the Kakamega gold rush in the early 1930s, fueled partly by the reports of the geologist Albert Ernest Kitson.
Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology is a new institution of higher learning created by an act of parliament in December 2006 which is in the heart of Kakamega town on the Kakamega-Webuye road. It is expected to spur growth in this capital of Western Province.
Kakamega Forest is the main tourist destination in the area. Another attraction is the Crying Stone of Ilesi located along the highway towards Kisumu. It is a 40 metres high rock dome resembling a human figure whose "eyes" drop water.
With the adoption of the new constitution in 2010 and subsequent elections of 2013 which ushered in the devolved system of governance, the County elected its first Governor who is the Executive authority in the County and his deputy, its first Senator to represent the County at the Senate and through affirmation of women and youth rights, the first Woman Representative to represent the County’s women and youth issues at the National Assembly.
GOVERNOR : HE HON WYCLIFFE AMBETSA OPARANYA, EGH
DEPUTY GOVERNOR : HIS EXCELLENCY PROF. PHILIP M. KUTIMA
SENATOR : HON. CLEOPHAS MALALAH WAKHUNGU
WOMEN REPRESENTATIVE : HON. ELSIE BUSIHILE MUHANDA
Kakamega County has twelve (12) constituencies divided into 60 electoral wards. Malava has the highest number of wards with 7, followed by Lugari, Lurambi and Shinyalu with 6, Likuyani Navakholo, Matungu and Butere has 5 each, Mumias West, Khwisero and Ikolomani 4 each while Mumias East Constituency has the least with 3 wards.