Indigenous Kikuyu agroforestry: A case study of Kirinyaga, Kenya

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14 Scopus citations


This article analyzes agroforestry practices among the Ndia and Gichugu Kikuyu of Kirinyaga, Kenya, at the turn of the century, before the onset of colonial rule. It describes ways in which people adapted to competing pressures for retaining and removing tree cover. It shows how religious beliefs, tenure relations based on a communal property-rights regime, and farm forestry practices contributed to the conservation of trees. Such strategies were not aimed at reversing deforestation, but mitigating its impact by incorporating valued trees into local sociocultural and household production systems. The article points out that indigenous agroforestry practices need to be viewed in the context of local socioeconomic and ecological differences. It also considers the impact of the caravan trade on land use during the late 1800s. Tree scarcity in the late precolonial era is briefly contrasted with the area's "woodfuel crisis" of the 1980s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1991


  • Kenya
  • Kikuyu
  • agroforestry
  • common property
  • conservation
  • firewood
  • forests
  • indigenous technical knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Ecology


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