Thumbnail Image

Human geographies of the rural-urban fringe: Social dynamics of land development in the Nairobi rural-urban fringe, Kenya

The process of urbanization is one of the most important dimensions of economic, social and physical change. It is almost a truism that the planet’s future is an urban one and that the largest and fastest growing cities are primarily in developing countries. As in other parts of the developing world, the urban population in Africa is expected to double by 2025, Kenya is no exception. Rapid urban population growth means an increasing demand for urban land. This land is not available within cities, but in the rural-urban fringes, for various reasons. The conversion of agricultural land to residential uses in these areas is leading to rapid transformations of this space. This thesis is motivated by a concern for the quality of life and environment in the Nairobi rural-urban fringe, specifically Town Council of Karuri (TCK). This is because it is a place where generic problems associated with urban growth (such as pollution, social dislocation, land use conflicts, loss of agricultural land) are increasingly becoming evident and manifest. This thesis thus examines the dynamics of land use change in the TCK with the aim of building an understanding of the drivers of agricultural land conversions, implications of resulting land use changes, and the related response mechanisms to the changes. The leading question that guided the line of enquiry and discussion is: why is agriculture being squeezed out by non-agricultural land uses in the Nairobi rural-urban fringe? To understand land use dynamics it was necessary to frame landholders and their decision-making environments in ‘situated contexts’. However literature, personal experience and interviews, indicated that forces driving or influencing land conversions interact and operate at varying scales and in an interrelated manner. With this understanding the study adopted an approach that embraced a nested set of scales, an approach that enabled an understanding of the complex local and macro forces and their localized consequences and responses. A case study research that adopted a multiple method qualitative approach and made use of a conceptual framework that borrowed from different theoretical perspectives was adopted. This study, in the main, has indicated that the geography of rural-urban fringe is the outcome of a host of public and private economic, social, cultural, environmental and political forces operating on a variety of scales from the global to the local/human. As a result, a full understanding of the rural-urban fringe and of the problems and prospects for different people and places needs to be grounded in the knowledge of the structural forces and processes that operate on and in combination with contextual factors to condition the geographies of the rural-urban fringe. This study has explored the complexity of geographies of the rural-urban fringe from a social perspective. It has illustrated the significance of macro, micro, local/human forces in creating and recreating the rural-urban fringe environment. The study achieved this by delving into the TCK to examine the diversity of places and actors and the way they affect land development. This study points out that a number of powerful conditions/factors operate at broad scales to determine what is possible at the level of the individual landholder in respect to land use. These forces are leading to land conversions which produce both intended and unintended consequences. These consequences are contributing to change in social, cultural, environmental and economic aspects of the Nairobi rural-urban fringe. Actors (landholders and the residents) are however not passively accepting the fate of being victims of land use changes but instead they are evolving varieties of local/human-level responses (and also developing/recalling subaltern strategies) to enable them to live in the rapidly changing environment. Their varied individual and collective agency is however at times limited or strongly constrained by structural factors and conditions that are beyond their knowledge repertoire or control. This has led to differences in collective and individual responses to the conditions that shape the effects of drivers of land conversions. The differentiated responses are, however also, unintentionally creating conditions for further land conversions, either through making the hitherto unfavourable areas for settlement favourable or creating more obstacles for the continuation of viable agricultural activities. The findings of this thesis point out that the explanation of why agricultural land use is being edged out by non-agricultural uses in the Nairobi fringe is contingent on many factors/conditions, primary of which is population increase through natural growth and in-migration. Population growth thus is a necessary condition for land conversions from agricultural to residential use in the Nairobi fringe. The process that produces population growth is, however, a part of the processes that produces land conversions in the Nairobi fringe. The study argues for redefinition of focus as is embodied in the dichotomous definitions such as rural/urban, legal/illegal, formal/informal to definitions that reflect hybrid characteristics that rural-urban fringes are manifesting. Further implications of the findings on the future research, policy and planning in urban/rural-urban fringe contexts of the developing countries are also enumerated. Areas/aspects in which this thesis was considered weak are identified and future rural-urban fringe research directions are proposed.
Type of thesis
Thuo, A. D. M. (2010). Human geographies of the rural-urban fringe: Social dynamics of land development in the Nairobi rural-urban fringe, Kenya (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/5832
University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.