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98 Book Reviews O'Mahoney weaves into the story several references to the military skills of the Tigre, the discipline of their troops, their well-organized medical teams, et cetera. The author places much of the plot in Tigre, the action revolving around Adigrat. In fact, the author's introduction is even titled "Adigrat, 17 July 1991." It is intriguing that the book was printed so quickly after the arrival of the EPRDF government and then distributed through the government book shop chain. As scholars study the Derg era, they will face piles of reports, statistics , and propaganda. They would do well to read Meaza ofEthiopia as well; they may not be able to cite it in their bibliographies, but it will remind them that all of these large-scale events, trends, and movements happened in an Ethiopia full of ordinary people, simply trying to live out their lives. Pete Unseth Tepi, Kafa, Ethiopia Rural Change in Machakos, Kenya; A Historical Geography Perspective Marilyn Silberfein New York: University Press of America, 1989. 197 pp. In 1986, 1988, and again in the summer of 1990, this writer had occasion to pass through parts of Machakos District in south central Kenya. As the crow flies, Machakos is about 50 miles from Nairobi. As Silberfein notes in her analysis of rural change in Machakos, it is a rugged land; a "composite of highlands and lowlands, which currently covers approximately 14,000 Km2" (p.l). It was evident in my three visits that the population of the district was growing rapidly and the agricultural resource base of the region was under enormous pressure. Over-farming of steep slopes was evident everywhere, seen in the ubiquitous gully erosion. Small plots of land were being farmed on what appeared to be slopes too steep for a person to stand on; the lowlands were being systematically overgrazed; and deforestation was quite evident , despite government efforts at reforestation. Book Reviews 99 The quality of life for the people in Machakos District, Kenya, and the processes that led to the current state of development and simultaneous environmental decline in this region, are the subjects of Marilyn Silberfein's book. The analysis is one of historical geography, in which the writer re-creates the past cultural landscape and its cultural and economic history to understand the present. Slowly, from pre-colonial times to the postcolonial state, she brings the reader to the present, and the current environmental and agricultural dilemmas faced by the Kamba people in Machakos. Because of its methodology of analysis, this book is an important addition to the literature about the character and nature of traditional agricultural practices in Africa as they relate to the imposition of colonial rule, and as they have been impacted by the policies of the modern African nation-state. While being a highly professional treatment of both a complex and perplexing subject, it is a very readable book. The book focuses on three interacting themes: (l) the "unique" (p.l) characteristics of the African natural environmental system; (2) the impact of colonial rule on the traditional survival/productive agricultural systems of the Kamba; and (3) the impacts of the policies, plans, and actions of the postcolonial Kenyan government and international aid agencies on the district today. For any people, at any time, the Machakos region could only be described as an archetypal "difficult" African environment. While parts of the region suffer from semi-permanent drought, drought can—and does—occur anywhere at any time. Much of the environmental history of the region has been a history of water supply problems. The physical landscape is divided between highland and lowland regions, creating a variety of ecological zones related to changes in elevation. Furthermore, the land is steep in the highland areas and the soil often difficult to work, making agricultural production difficult, even though the area is rather well-watered. The lowland areas suffer from periodic drought and many of these places are semi-arid. However, when the Kamba first settled it in the late seventeenth, central highland Machakos was a region propitious for agriculture. Gradually as population increased, drought occurred, or clan rivalries intensified, the Kamba colonized outward from the center of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 98-104
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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