This Working Paper is part of a study which aims to relate long term environmental change, population growth and technological change, and to identify the policies and institutions which are conducive to sustainable development. The first stage, published in these Working Papers, is to measure and assess as precisely as the evidence allows the changes that have occurred in the study area, the semi-arid Machakos District, Kenya, over a period of six decades. Degradation of its natural resources was evoking justifiable concern in the 1930s and 1940s. By several measures it is now in a more sustainable state, despite a five-fold increase in population. A long-term perspective is essential, since temporary factors, such as a run of poor rainfall years, can confuse analysis of change if only a few years are considered. The study is developing a methodology for incorporating historical, physical, social and economic data in an integrated assessment.
The paper consists of two unequal parts. Section A, ‘Akamba Institutions and Development, 1930-90’, by Judith Mbula Bahemuka and Mary Tiffen, examines the main elements of Akamba society in their relationship to the transmission of knowledge and the increase in organisational ability. Section B, ‘NGOs and Technological Change’, by J.W. Kaluli, looks at some of the current activities of a variety of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).