Kipsigis - Settlements



Kipsigis country is a patchwork of contiguous small farms, ranging from less than 1 to more than 12 hectares. Most families live on farms of between 3 and 6 hectares. These farms are grouped into communities called kokwotinwek ( sing. kokwet ). These are not nucleated villages; in fact, one who is unfamiliar with a particular kokwet cannot easily discern its boundaries, although certain physical features—such as roads, streams, or marshes—often separate one kokwet from the next. The kokwet provides a pool of neighbors with whom one is expected to cooperate in certain kinds of farm work and to rally behind in times of sickness or need. In the past, kokwet membership was largely elective, at least for married men, given that residence was ideally neolocal. Today land scarcity prohibits such mobility. It is unlikely that a young man can find, let alone afford, a piece of land away from his father's farm, and therefore the kokwet is becoming a less fluid social unit. A mature Kipsigis homestead generally has three house types: a father's house, rectangular in design, often covered by a corrugated tin roof; a kitchen building, which is round, with a thatched roof, where children and unmarried daughters sleep; and a bachelors' house, where initiated young men sleep. Most Kipsigis houses are of mud- and-wattle construction; however, some prosperous farmers are now building stone houses that incorporate various features of European design.


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