Stratification of the Study Population and Residential Patterns
Since about the 1990s, the livelihoods of Northern Baringo’s population have diversified from a predominantly cattle-based pastoralist economy to an increasingly stratified society, with increasing social differentiation according to livelihood strategies and livestock ownership. This trend, which has been previously described ethnographically (Bollig 2016; Bollig and Österle 2013; Österle 2008), is confirmed by our cluster analysis in which we used three variables on education, landholdings, and livestock ownership to distinguish six socio-economic groups, each including between 50 and 77 households (Table 1).Footnote 2 The focus on education, livestock, and land reflects important and measurable sorts of capital or assets, whereby ‘ownership in land’ refers to customary use rights rather than to formal, tenured ownership.Footnote 3
The cluster analysis generates a clear-cut division between households without formal education (NFE) on the one hand (groups A1 to A4), and households with some formal education on the other hand (groups B1 and B2). Additionally, we find pronounced differences regarding ownership in livestock and land between the groups. With respect to these assets, A1 (NFE-very poor) is the poorest group with very little livestock and negligible land, followed by A2 (NFE-poor) with little land and livestock. A3 and A4 own much livestock which indicates that pastoralism is an important part of their livelihood. Whereas A3 (NFE–pastoralist) is rich in livestock, but not in land, A4 (NFE-agro-pastoralist) is rich in both livestock and land, thereby pointing to the additional importance of agriculture for these households’ livelihoods (also see Table 3 below).
This latter group (NFE-A4) resembles B2 (educated richFootnote 4), which is also rich in livestock and land, but has some formal education. Finally, B1 (educated poor), the group with the lowest average age, also has some degree of formal education but is mostly destitute, owns little livestock, and varying, but smaller amounts of land (see Table 1). In terms of livestock, which is still a local indicator of affluence—despite the increasing diversification of livelihood patters—we can distinguish three relatively poor and three relatively rich groups of households (A1, A2 and B1 versus A3, A4 and B2).
When analysing households according to their home’s distance from the two main roads in the study region (cp. Fig. 1), we distinguish between three distance classes: (I) Those that live close to a main road (up to 500 m); (II) those that live a bit farther away, but within about one-hour walking distance (> 500 m–5 km); and (III) those that live beyond 5 km from a main road. Table 2 shows how our six socio-economic household groups are spread among the three distance classes.
As Table 2 shows, our findings contradict Chambers’ (1983) assessment of roadsides being primarily residence sites for the more affluent. The roadside in Tiaty East is by no means only the residential area of relatively rich households. Fairly rich households with more ‘traditional’ livelihoods, particularly those relying on pastoralism (A3) and agro-pastoralism (A4), tend to live far from the road (73% resp. 59% in distance class III). About half of the NFE-very poor (A1) and the majority of the NFE-poor (A2), as well as most households in the groups with formal education (B1 & B2), live relatively close to a main road (distance classes I and II). These findings have some similarities to the results of a study in rural Tigray, Ethiopia, by Rammelt et al. (2017). Their data, which measure household-to-road distance and income in four rural woredas (districts), also reveal a rather mixed picture. In this study, the correlation between households’ distance from roads and income differs greatly between the four woredas, including one woreda where the income-rich tend to live far away from roads and one with the opposite situation. The authors point to the distribution of natural resources such as water and pastureland as a possible explanation for these inter-regional differences.
Our data also suggests that environmental factors, particularly the availability of pasture, plays a role in the residential choice of households (Greiner et al. 2013), particularly of those with greater livestock ownership. Similar to what is reported from Hade Alga in Tigray (Rammelt et al. 2017), households with significant livestock holdings tend to live in greater distance to the road than those with few animals. An important additional explanation for these patterns in our research area is the widespread fear of police and military intervention as a result of livestock raids on neighbouring groups, which in the past have often included the arbitrary confiscation of large quantities of livestock (see also “Background to Roads and Mobility in Tiaty East” and “Differentiating Impact of Roads on Attitudes and Worries” sections).
We conclude that, in contrast to households that are relatively rich in livestock, poorer households are forced to adapt their income strategies and rely on income sources that require road access or even travel. It is notable that, in our sample, a higher percentage of female-headed households reside closer to the road (36% in distance class I; 27% and 26% in II and III). Concerning areas far away from the roadside, we can conclude that these are not deserted due to a ‘universal’ movement of populations toward new—or, in our case, rehabilitated—main roads (Beck et al. 2017). By contrast, from our data it appears that off-road locations serve as deliberate retreats for households depending on more traditional pastoral or agro-pastoral livelihoods. Our findings thus point to a clear relation between residential distance to roads and livelihood choices.
Livelihood Diversification and Distribution of Assets in Relation to Road Distance
Livelihood diversification from pastoralism to agriculture—predominantly rainfed maize cultivation—is common across all socio-economic groups. There are, however, differences between groups, with the lowest incidences in the ‘NFE-very poor’ (A1) and the ‘NFE-pastoralist’ (A3) households (see Table 3), but variation also depends on the ecological suitability of the residential area (cf. Rammelt et al. 2017). Nonetheless, farming activities are less common in households far away from the road: 38% of households in distance class III are not involved in cultivation, as compared to 29% in distance classes I and II.
Income from formal employment is rare in the study area, and it is unsurprisingly highest and most common in the educated rich group (B2). More important is income from daily wage labour and own businesses; 13% of all households reported at least one of these two income sources. Daily wage labour, for example, includes seasonal clearing, ploughing, or weeding agricultural fields for other households. It also includes manual day labour in road construction and security services, both of which are related to the implementation of infrastructures for geothermal energy generation. Own business activities include food retail in small shops or kiosks, usually by more affluent households. It also includes sale of charcoal, illicit brews, honey, as well as petty trade, which are important income-generating activities found in many households, but most prominently among the poor (Bollig and Österle 2013). Whereas bags of charcoal are commonly displayed and sold along the main roads, the production of illicit goods, for example the poaching of sandalwood, is usually done covertly. One prominent example is illicit brewing, which was introduced by road and bridge workers in the 1990s. However, while drinking places tend to be well hidden, they are never located far from a road to ensure supply and costumers.
Cash income from both daily wage labour and own businesses is highest, on average, in households close to the road (distance class I). Regarding socio-economic groups, income from daily wage labour is highest in group B2, followed by A1. Income from own business is highest in households of groups B2 and B1, followed by A3 and A4, thus indicating a need for investment of own resources and/or formal skills to be able to run a business. Overall, these findings indicate that households with some degree of education, but also households living close to a main road, earn higher incomes from such activities.
A look at the asset base among the different socio-economic groups further reveals striking differences between rich and poor households (see Table 3). Iron sheet roofs are often mentioned by local people as an indicator of the relative wealth of a household. Interestingly, they are most common among educated households, rich and poor. The distribution of radios, mobile phones, and mobile bank accounts (Mpesa) also reflects education and relative wealth. Finally, most households (93%) do not have access to electricity. Only in the educated rich group (B2), 25% of households have access to electricity from the grid or from solar power; geographically, the number of households with access to electricity is highest in the group closest to the road.
Since we focus on the impact of main roads, it is also interesting to see how automobile transport is distributed. In our survey of 361 households, we counted a total of only 26 scooters (or small motorcycles) distributed amongst 25 households (most of which were in educated rich households, B2, see Table 3). There was a total of only five private cars in the sample of 361 households. They belonged to four households in the educated rich group. Bicycles are not very popular with only 14 bicycles in 13 households.
Differentiating Impact of Roads on Attitudes and Worries
Despite large differences in asset ownership and livelihood conditions, the interviewed household heads share many worries and attitudes. However, there are also stark differences that are also reflected in households’ distance to road. Questions regarding worries, attitudes and specifically trust in institutions were posed in the survey using Likert scales, with answers ranging from (1) ‘extremely worried’, (2) ‘very worried’, (3) ‘worried’, (4) ‘slightly worried’ to (5) ‘not worried at all’ and (1) ‘strongly trust’, (2) ‘trust’, (3) ‘indifferent’, (4) ‘distrust’, and (5) ‘strongly distrust’ (in institutions).
Regarding worries about climate change, associated livelihood conditions, and political issues, we find a rather homogeneous picture: Throughout all groups, respondents are worried, very worried, or even extremely worried about food insecurity (98%), about effects of climate change, especially floods and long droughts (94%), about depletion of natural resources (94%), and about clan or tribal violence (94%). Of those households interviewed, far fewer are (-/very/extremely) worried about political upheavals (53%) or about exclusion from political decision-making (32%). With respect to these worries, there are only relatively small or inconclusive variations among different socio-economic groups and distance classes.
By contrast, a clearly differentiated pattern emerges from question about whether the household head is worried about the loss of cultural traditions (Fig. 2). Households living closer to the road are less worried about this issue. Moreover, household heads with some degree of formal education have relatively few concerns in this respect. At the same time, the proportion of those who worry about loss of cultural traditions strongly increases with growing distance from the main road(s): from 39% in distance class I to 83% in class III.Footnote 5
Those who worry most about the loss of cultural traditions are thus household heads with larger livestock herds who predominantly live from pastoralism, or—to put it differently—whose livelihoods have changed least (i.e. specifically A3). These are also the households living at greatest distances from the main roads. This not only recalls Scott’s argument of self-chosen marginalization to escape the potentially adverse effects that go along with integration into the nation state (Scott 2009). It also recalls Wilson’s claim that a road’s function might also be related to attitudes toward economic change (Wilson 1973). If we take lower fear of ‘loss of cultural traditions’ as a proxy for openness to change, we can conclude that exposure and interactions resulting from residence closer to main roads enhances economic change. This is also reflected in diversified livelihoods (see 5.2).
When asked about trust in institutions, our respondents report a very high level of trust in the traditional leadership system: 88% of all household trust or even strongly trust traditional leadership, and only 5% distrust or strongly distrust this institution. The level of trust in local and national government is much lower, but there is still a majority (56%) that trusts state institutions, with 26% reporting distrust. The police and judicial systems enjoy the lowest level of trust (33%) and an even higher level of distrust (40%). There are only slight differences between the groups, but notably the educated rich (B2) show somewhat divergent attitudes: respondents from this group have a relatively high level of trust in the police and judicial system (42%), and a slightly lower level of trust in the traditional leadership system (81%) than the other groups. This disparity is confirmed by ethnographic evidence showing that households with some degree of formal education often call the police in the event of disputes, very much to the dismay of rural elders who often belong to groups A3 or A4 (Greiner 2017).
Despite relatively small variations across household groups regarding trust in institutions, the respective data show an interesting variation according to road distance (Fig. 3). While there are only slight differences regarding the level of trust in central and local governments, strong trust in the traditional leadership system clearly increases with distance from road.Footnote 6 The level of trust in the police and the judicial system also shows a clear, but reverse road-related pattern.Footnote 7 Trust in state institutions clearly decreases with growing distance from a main road. This is an interesting finding given the situation of conflict in Tiaty East, and widespread fears of army or police interventions (see “Literature Review and Research Questions” and “Stratification of the Study Population and Residential Patterns” sections).
Our findings could indicate that either those with greater trust in the police and judicial system moved closer to the road, or that increased interaction with security forces due to proximity to roads leads to a reduction of reservations against them. In summary, however, these results show that traditional attitudes are very prominent among the study population, particularly those living far from the main roads, whereas local and central government and especially the police and judicial system are much less trusted.
Knowledge About and Expectations from Geothermal Development
Given the prominence of recent infrastructural developments in the study area, one would assume that large parts of the population are at least informed about the most prominent one, namely the development of infrastructures for geothermal energy production. This is indicated on huge billboards, visible in new roads and water infrastructures, and communicated in meetings with the local population. Interestingly, almost half of all households interviewed (47%) claimed not to know about this project. There is a clear pattern that relates to road distance: 79% of those residing close to the road (distance class I) knew of geothermal development, whereas among those households living far from the road (distance class III), only 34% claimed to be informed (Fig. 4). Furthermore, in each of the six socio-economic groups, a much higher proportion of households in distance class I claim to know about geothermal development than in distance class III. Regarding awareness of geothermal projects in the area, households with some degree of formal education claim to know of geothermal development much more often than households in other socio-economic groups.
Interestingly, of those households that know about geothermal development, the large majority expects a positive (52%) or even a very positive (15%) effect on the next generation, whereas about a third (31%) is neutral and only 2% expect negative effects. There are variations among the six socio-economic groups: positive or very positive expectation is highest among the educated rich (B2, 83%), and the highest negative expectation is 8% in group A3 (‘NFE–pastoralists’). Overall, our survey results exhibit a positive outlook on the future impact of geothermal development.
Among the benefits expected for the next generation, employment (jobs) is mentioned most frequently (86 mentions), followed by water (31 mentions), and roads (12 mentions). Electricity is only mentioned five times as an expected future benefit. This indicates that electricity is not an urgent desire for many respondents, most of whom (93%) do not have electricity access, solar or otherwise, so far (see Table 3). Especially among households whose livelihoods are mainly based on mobile livestock husbandry, electricity is of little importance. This is confirmed by interviews with residents of the area. A member of the community liaison-team of the GDC told us that elderly Pokot people, in particular, have no interest in electricity but insist on improved access to water.
Our findings thus suggest that households with some degree of formal education, as well as households that live closer to the road, are better informed about recent developments in the study area. These results support Leinbach’s (1995) claim that roads are carriers of information, news, and innovations. Traders, NGO workers, travellers and even the odd researcher, but also politicians on the campaign trail and security forces, they all use the road. People wait along the road for the occasional car to come by and offer a lift, drivers meet relatives or friends and stop for a chat, and longer involuntary stops due to punctures or other technical breakdowns are also common.
The relatively widespread availability of mobile phones (59% of all households claim to be in possession of at least one device) could disrupt the privilege of higher information density along the roads, since mobile phones allow for ‘non-localized’ flows of information. However, network access is not widely available, as are airtime and power for charging. Furthermore, there is a considerable increase in availability of mobile phones and radios the closer a household is to the road: 66% of households in distance class I own one or more cell phones, and 39% are in possession of a radio. By contrast, 52% of households in distance class III have one or more cell phones, and only 12% are in possession of a radio. In summary, it can therefore be concluded that in Tiaty East and its environs, households residing closer to the road have better access to information.
Land Disputes and Anticipations Toward Land
Conflicts around land ownership in what today is Tiaty East mostly started in the mid-2000s. The ongoing trend toward livelihood diversification and sedentarization has increased pressure on land with arable soil and plots close to the main roads and to settlements. The rush for land is particularly pronounced in the cooler highlands around Churo, where electricity has been available for a few years and where conditions for cultivation are favourable. Although land has officially been communal throughout Tiaty East, and private ownership was not legally recognized, many plots along main roads are fenced in and claimed as private property. Our qualitative research showed that disputes are often conducted by people seeking to challenge a current user's right of use based on past claims, typically with the aim of securing land for members of their own family. Members of local elite families are frequently involved, as they have the knowledge as well as the financial means to involve traditional courts (Greiner 2017).
These ethnographic findings are confirmed by the results of our survey (Table 4). While about 17% of all interviewed households have already been involved in a dispute over their land, this figure is twice as high in the group of the ‘educated rich’ (B2). Moreover, the observation that landed property close to rural roads has turned out to be a major point of contention is confirmed by the data. In particular, households living close to a main road have been more often involved in such conflicts (21% in distance class I) than households living more distant to the roads (15% in distance class III).
More recently, the ongoing rush on land in Tiaty East was driven by what can be described as ‘economies of anticipation’ (Cross, 2015; Greiner 2016). Anticipation, according to Bryant and Knight (2019, p. 22) refers to the “imagining of the future in the present,” and to consequently “drawing them into the same activity timespace” (ibid.). As such, the anticipation of future developments in the area—geothermal energy exploration, but also the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) and Chinese investments into diatomite mines—has massive impacts on the ‘production of locality’ (Appadurai 2013, p. 298). While some of these developments, such as the anticipated passage of the LAPSSET corridor through Tiaty East, might not materialize, it still contributes to imagined new topographies of economic value and—more generally—to the local land rush and to rising values of land.
Past observations and future expectations of land availability reported in our survey confirm the dynamics of land-related issues. The two questions, how the availability of land has changed in the past, and how it will change in the future (each with a 5-year horizon), has yielded clear results. The majority of households observed decreasing land availability in the past (56%) and anticipate a similar trend in the future (60%). These percentages, however, are significantly higher in households living close to the road (distance class I). With 79% and 82% respectively, the figures in that group are higher than in any of the socio-economic groups alone, hinting at a clear rush for land close to the roads.
The anticipation of decreasing land availability is also underlined by concerns about future conflicts over land ownership. 23% of all respondents think that it is likely or very likely that there will be a dispute over their land in the future. Again, this is especially the case for households who live close to a main road (34% in distance class I) and in households with some degree of formal education (B1: 38%, B2: 34%), but also in the group of relatively land-rich agro-pastoralist households (A4: 30%).