International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Changing Dynamics of Colonial African Labour in the Asian-Owned Sugar Plantations in Kisumu County, Kenya, 1919-1945
Dr. Joshia Otieno Osamba

This article examines colonial African labour in the Asian owned sugar plantations in Kisumu County. The basic premise of the study is that the incorporation of the County into the world economy through British colonialism progressively undermined the African peasant society. The paper contends that Asian settlers just like their European counterparts, exploited African labour. This was evident in the low wages, poor working conditions and arduous tasks. The article also demonstrates how the sugar plantation economy undermined the African peasant sector. It further observes that although Asian farmers paid their labourers low wages compared to other employers, a significant number of Africans preferred to work for them for reasons of proximity to African reserves, short contracts and the daily payment practice adopted by Asian employers. Material for this study was obtained from archival sources, oral interviews and analysis of existing works on socio-economic history in general and labours in particular. The study was informed by the underdevelopment theory. Using the underdevelopment perspective, the paper demonstrates how colonial labour policies led to the underdevelopment of Kisumu County. It points out that the colonial government in Kenya established and maintained authoritarian labour policies characterized by forced labour, land alienation and taxation, which gradually induced Africans to join wage labour in the Asian sugar plantations and elsewhere. Even though the colonial labour policies were mainly aimed at assisting the European settlers, coincidentally the Asian settlers to some extent benefitted too. Kajulu, Kano and Nyakach locations were set aside for labour within Kisumu County. The article posits that colonial capitalism had numerous negative effects on the African peasants in Kisumu County. It concludes that colonialism in its manifold forms intensified the underdevelopment in Kisumu County. The study contributes to the Kenya’s labour.

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