According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Kenya is a state in East Africa. It is slightly larger than France and lies on both sides of the equator. Kenya borders the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The coast is about 400 km long. A 20 to 25 km wide coastal lowland joins inland. The coastal region rises in the north and east to wide, up to 1500 to 2000 m high plateaus, which are overlooked by extinct volcanoes. The East African Rift runs through the west of the country with numerous lakes without drainage. The climate is tropical. Abundant precipitation falls on the bulges of the trench zone and on the windward sides of the mountains as well as in the southern coastal area. They decrease to the north and northeast. In the areas with more precipitation, rainforest and wet savannah determine the landscape, in drier areas it is dry savannah or semi-desert.
About 40 ethnic groups live in Kenya. The biggest cities are Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru. Tourism in the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries is the country’s largest currency earner. 70% of the population work in agriculture. Small farmers practice intensive rain-fed farming for their own needs. The highlands are pastures for intensive or nomadic livestock farming. In large farms and plantations, products for export, especially coffee, are grown. The main industry is the processing of agricultural products. The former British colony of Kenya has been an independent republic since 1963.
Kenya borders the Republic of Sudan and Ethiopia in the north, Somalia in the east, Tanzania in the south and Uganda in the west (Fig. 1).
The country name is derived from the mountain Kenya (Mount Kenya). The capital Nairobi is located in the south-eastern part of the country at an altitude of 1670 m.
Important data about the country
|580 367 km²
|56 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|1.5% / year
|Form of government:
|Kiswahili, Kikuyu, Luo, Maasai and another 30 languages, English
|Followers of natural religions 19%, Catholics 54%, Protestants 7%, Muslims 6%
|Arable land 4.2%, pasture land 6.6%, forest 4.2%
(share of employees)
|Agriculture 16%, industry 20%, services 65%
|Tea, horticultural products, green coffee, petroleum products, groceries
|Gross domestic product:
|$ 14,376 million (2003)
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 400 / residents (2003)
The Kenyan landscape comprises four regions. The coast on the Indian Ocean is about 400 km long. The coastal lowlands are about 20 to 25 km wide and gradually rise to the west. Wide high plateaus connect to the coastal region throughout the north and east. They are about 1500 to 2000 m high and are dominated by individual extinct volcanoes. The highest point is Mount Kenya with 5194 m. It is the second highest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The mountain range slopes steeply to the west to the East African Rift, which runs through the western part of the country. It belongs to the East African Rift System, a tectonic fault zone that extends from the Jordan Rift via the Red Sea to the Zambezi in East Africa.
The highlands continue to the west of the moat. It sinks to the far west towards Lake Victoria, of which Kenya only has a small share. This plain is also interrupted by volcanoes. The highest is the 4321 m high Elgon in the border area with Uganda.
The longest river in Kenya is the Tana. It is around 800 km long and flows into the Indian Ocean in two arms. The second major river is the Galana, also known as the Athi.
There are several lakes without drainage in the East African Rift Zone. The largest is Lake Turkan (Rudolfsee) in northeastern Kenya. In the southwest, Kenya has a share of Lake Victoria.
Kenya lies on both sides of the equator. The climate is tropical. In the coastal area the temperatures are very hot. Inland, they are mitigated by the altitude.
In most of Kenya, the average rainfall is only 500 mm per year. However, the regional distribution of precipitation in the country is different. Abundant rain falls on the bulges of the trench zone, on the windward sides of the volcanoes and in the southern coastal area. Precipitation decreases towards the north and northeast. Kenya has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The rainy seasons last near the equator from October to December and from April to June (Fig. 4).
Kenya’s vegetation is diverse. In the areas with high rainfall, dense rainforest and wet savannah cover the land. A large part of the highlands is covered by dry savannah and thorn-bush savannah. The extreme north is semi-desert.
As in many other tropical countries, Kenya’s forests have been severely decimated by slash-and-burn and deforestation. Only about 4% of the country is covered by forest, in contrast to 30% in 1930. The dry areas affected by drought have thus grown to 87% of the country’s area. The government tries to counteract erosion damage through reforestation programs.
Kenya’s industry is well developed. The tourism in the national parks and game reserves has become the main source of income. Kenya was visited by around 770000 tourists in 1996, bringing in US $ 465 million.
Nevertheless, agriculture is the main livelihood of the population. 70% of the population is employed in agriculture, even if only 15% of the land can be used for agriculture and forestry. Climatic differences, especially the different levels of rainfall, determine the agricultural usability of the country.
Smallholder land use
An intensive rainfed operated meters in the highlands to the 1500th Small farmers provide for themselves there on 1 ha to 4 ha large areas through traditional chopping. Maize and millet, bananas, sweet potatoes and various types of vegetables are grown. Larger companies grow coffee and tea for export. In the coastal strip influenced by the monsoon there are orange, lemon and grapefruit plantations. In addition, cotton, pineapple, sugar cane and sisal are grown.
The natural pastures of the savannah can only be used extensively for migratory livestock due to the low rainfall. Cattle and sheep graze here. It is the economic area of the nomadic population. However, traditional grazing is increasingly leading to overgrazing and erosion damage. Desert-like landscapes spread out.
With the help of the locals, the European immigrants transformed savannah land into plantations, farms and pastures. In addition to self-sufficiency, local farmers began to operate market-oriented on small areas. Large farmland was distributed to Kenyan farming families.
Maize and wheat are grown in rain-fed crops on the large farms in areas with low rainfall. Plantations produce sugar cane, coffee, tea and sisal in the border areas of rain-fed agriculture. Today, small farmers can also grow coffee if they belong to a cooperative. She advises the farmers, organizes the processing and marketing. The small farms now have a 50% share of the country’s coffee production.
The processing of agricultural products dominates the industry. Textile, cement, fertilizer and wood processing industries are important branches of the economy. The processing of imported oil is also important. The main trading partners are Great Britain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. The main port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean also serves to supply the landlocked states Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.
East Africa is considered to be the cradle of humanity. Human bones found in what is now Kenya are around 2.6 million years old.
In the 5th century BC Roman and Egyptian seafarers reported about the settlements on the coast of today’s Kenya.
Arab and Persian merchants established trading posts from the 7th century to the 10th century. After the discovery of the sea route to India in the 15th century, interest in Kenya awoke in Europe. Up until the 19th century there were conflicts between Islamic princes and Europeans.
In 1886 Kenya became a British colony. In 1920 it was annexed to British East Africa.
On December 12, 1963, Great Britain granted the Crown Colony independence. Kenya was declared a republic in the Commonwealth in 1964. Since then, the country has been shaken domestically by tribal conflicts, oppression, corruption and human rights violations. Between 1991 and 1994 and 1997 and 1999 there were serious unrest and displacement in the country.