Pokot - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Cattle keeping and grain growing (traditionally, sorghum and finger millet; more recently, maize) are at the center of Pokot subsistence and commercial activities, but their relative importance varies regionally. In general, cattle are more essential to subsistence in the lowlands than they are in the highlands. To ensure an adequate food supply, Pokot herding and cultivating practices take advantage of the region's complex ecology: herds are moved seasonally, and crops are planted in different ecological zones in order to stagger harvests and maximize yields; furrow irrigation is practiced in the highlands.

Surplus maize is sold to a government-operated marketing board, along with sunflowers, pyrethrum, coffee, and cotton, the other major field crops that were introduced in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Surplus vegetables and fruits (potatoes, beans, cabbages, onions, kale, bananas, and oranges) are sold locally. Livestock marketing has been less successful than grain marketing.

Industrial Arts. Women weave baskets, work leather, and make milk gourds and unglazed pots for cooking and water storage. Men specialize in woodworking, making beehives, headrests, and the handles for spears, knives, and hoes. Blacksmiths forge metal tools, but the art of smelting seems to have died out in the precolonial era with the growth of the iron trade.

Trade. The most important forms of exchange are the marriage prestation and tilia , a stock partnership based on the exchange of a cow for an ox. The bartering and selling of grain, vegetables, cattle, and forest products (primarily honey) takes place between highland and lowland neighborhoods and in local markets.

Division of Labor. Productive activities are organized by homestead and by neighborhood, with women performing the greatest part of the homestead work, from milking cows to cultivating the fields to cooking. Children assist with herding, cultivation, and miscellaneous tasks.

Land Tenure. Rights to land are obtained through local land committees, inheritance, gift, contract, and purchase. Beginning in 1973, highland regions have been adjudicated as smallholdings and lowland regions as group ranches, in which land and animal management and liability for credit are collective.

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