is located in the Taita/Taveta District of Kenya’s Coast
Province, approximately 60 miles from the Indian Ocean. It
is known for its hills which rise to 6000 feet above sea level.
The geography of the location is quite diverse) extending
from the grassy fields) swamps and acacia forest of the plains)
to the dense patches of forest surrounded by semi-terraced
farms on the steep hillsides.
on map for larger view
large Catholic Mission for which the location is named is
situated in a central position in the location's hills, occupying
prime agricultural land. There are several small village areas
within Bura (see map). For example, there is a small trading
center (Sanga) near the Catholic Mission where there is a
weekly market, post office, telephone booth, shops and a tea
house. There is also a small center growing further up in
the hills, near the chiefs office (Tungulu). Another trading
center is quickly growing in the lowlands (Mwashuma) as a
result of its location near the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.
While the center is not electrified, the shops, lodging houses,
rental units and bar have been developed quickly in order
to cater primarily to the needs of the drivers who transport
tourists to the reserve. Filially, the main trading center
is located in Bura Station. It is located on the railway line
between the large town of Voi and the border between Kenya
and Tanzania. Here one finds the polytechnic school a Catholic
Church, market place, many shops, a grinding mill, several
restaurants, a lodging house, residential and rental units,
a health center, post office, telephone booth, and the railway
station. The center is electrified and has tap water, although
many buildings do not have electricity and taps are placed
at key points in the town for people to share.
an account from one of our members of staying with
a family in Bura. . .
varies with the altitude. The lowlands are generally hot and
dry, while the hills receive more rainfall and cooler temperatures.
extensively grown agricultural crops are corn and beans. Those
who live in the dry lowland areas grow millet, as it is drought
resistant and does well in poor soil. Rice is grown in swampy
areas. On the cool hillsides, one finds banana groves. Those
who are able to irrigate their land produce most of the vegetables
grown in the area. These crops include tomato, cabbage and
green pepper and they are marketed primarily in Mombasa. Other
small-scale crops include cassava, sweet potato, citrus, pea,
mango and sugar cane. Most farmers cannot afford farm machinery.
They farm with hoes and hands.
People of Bura and their History
of Bura are predominantly of the Taita (Dawida) ethnic group,
speaking the Dawida language as their mother tongue. The total
number of Taita people in Kenya is estimated to be approximately
250,000 making it one of the smaller ethnic groups in the
country. The ancestors of the Bura Taita were said to have
migrated from Lewa in Tanzania, in search of land for grazing
and cultivation. They settled initially in the hills to grow
some crops, while maintaining plots of land in the lower region
for others. Family members migrated seasonally to care for
the farms and graze livestock. Game meat was plentiful and
honey was harvested using traditional methods. There was considerable
mobility and it was not unheard of for people to walk as far
as Tanzania (approximately 30 miles) to visit friends or trade
goods and livestock.
forces have largely destroyed the systems that the Bura people
established to meet their needs while caring for their natural
surroundings. In the late 1800's, Catholic missionaries came
from the coast and confiscated 1000 acres of the best agricultural
land. Many farmers moved away from their productive farms
in search of land in the dry and bushy lowlands when this
happened. Others resisted the Mission, and eventually it returned
parts of the land that it had taken. The Mission was most
generous with those who converted to Catholicism, urging them
to settle on the best pieces of land surrounding the Mission,
disregarding original settlers.
In the 1960's and 70'5, tourism began to emerge as Kenya's
leading industry. Jomo Kenyatta, the president at that time,
generously offered a huge tract of land in this area to a
European friend. This became the Taita Hills Wildlife Reserve
and the Salt Lick Lodge. Hunting and killing of wild animals
was criminalized, but little was done to protect the farmers
from the animals. The result is that animals such as elephant
and buffalo freely roam the lowlands destroying crops, uprooting
fruit trees and endangering lives. The resulting insecurity
keeps farmers from undertaking certain activities such as
planting trees. It also means that large amounts of labor
are required to guard crops, particularly at night.
was a period of land demarcation. Private ownership of land
became the rule and land was consolidated in order to settle
families on individual tracts. Families could no longer depend
on small tracts (shambas) in several areas as they had in
the past. Consolidation means that a family must now depend
on one piece of land to meet its needs. If that piece fails,
the family faces hunger. Cooperation between family members
has been affected as nuclear families and their private land
has replaced extended families managing larger and more diverse
pieces of cornrnunal land. Conflicts have arisen as some acquired
land in the most productive areas while others were consolidated
on their least productive lands. Environmental degradation
has increased as people are forced to cultivate on marginal
land and destroy areas of particular eco logical importance.
has many schools and other institutions. There are ten primary
schools, two high schools, a vocational center for the disabled,
a polytechnic school and a private teachers' training college.
There are plans underway to construct another secondary school
in the lower region
are three health centers in the location including Sagaighu,
Bma Station and the Mission. The first two are government
operated, while the latter is a private clinic run by the
chmch. There is a police base near the Mission, and another
outpost at the Chiefs camp. The predominant religion is Catholicism.
but the Anglican Chmch has a small following and plans are
underway for the construction of an Anglican Church.
has seven sub-Iocations each of which includes several villages.
Each village is governed locally by a village head. Each sub-Iocation
is governed by an appointed Assistant Chief, supervised at
the Locationallevel by a Chief. All Chiefs in Taita- Taveta
District answer to the District Commissioner who in turn answers
to the Provincial Commissioner and finally to the President.
Elected officials include councilors at the Locationallevel
and Members of Parliament at the Divisional Level
There are many twes of organizations in Dura. Women's groups
play all important role in organizing women. They undertake
income generating projects and village banking. Men's groups
and self-help groups are also attempting to do the same, while
the Horticuhural Cooperative provides members with seeds,
fertilizer and a market for their produce. Each Village has
a committee that works with non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) such as Plan International and DANIDA to implement
projects in water, health, education, and agriculture. Cuhural
groups provide entertainment for community events.