Kipsigis is a sub-tribe among Kalenjin speakers who live mainly in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. They are the Nilotic Highland speakers whose mother tongue is the kipsigis language. Their original occupation was herding cattle, but nowadays they deal with mixed farming. The kipsigis people are high in number among the Kalenjin tribes and occupy predominantly Kericho highlands from Timboroa near Nakuru to the Mara river. These groups also live in parts of the Mau forest, parts of Narok county, Bomet county, Usain Gishu county, Nandi hills and Mara province in Tanzania. Lake Baringo is described by Kipsigis as their region of origin.
Cultural and customs values
The kipsigis community observes the values of humility, loyalty, cordiality and courtesy. They borrowed the age system and circumcision from Cushitic speakers. The kipsigis boys undergo the circumcision ceremony at the age of about 14, and should be isolated for at least a month. Traditionally, girls have also undergone the same treatment, but with the adoption of Western culture and the empowerment of educational policies by the government of Kenya, female genital mutilation has been banned. Most kipsigis people today appreciate the child’s education and their circumcision does not add any crucial value in their current lives in society.
Marriage is appreciated by the kipsigis community, but a man is not allowed to marry by his clan. A kipsigis man is considered respectable in old age when he is married. The girls were traditionally married after the initiation ceremony, but today most kipsigis have adopted Western culture and the education of the child’s values rather than initiation.
Kipsigis people have different clans, for example, kipkendeek, kaptolil, kabarangwek, kapkomosek, bobuserek among others. Each clan has a leader who is consulted whenever clan members want to meet to discuss their problems.
The kipsigis people traditionally practiced cattle because the land was extensive and was municipal property. Nowadays the earth has been divided into smaller portions for individual ownership. Mixed farming is now one of the main economic activities among kipsigis. It keeps livestock and grow crops like corn, beans, vegetables, cereals and crops like tea and coffee. Tea is grown in the highlands, particularly in the mountainous areas of Kericho and in the Nandi hills. The areas of Kericho and Bomet produce a high amount of tea for exports to Kenya. The kipsigis living in these areas benefit from the sale of tea and coffee, while others in different parts far from Kericho benefit from the sale of milk and other agricultural productions.
The village elder runs a small meeting called a village where they make group decisions, resolve local disputes and extreme cases are forwarded to the local chief who runs a subnet. Older men have a responsibility to guide young people about the standards of the kipsigis community.
Traditionally, kipsigis believes in ancestral worship, but today Christianity has run its course, and almost all the people of the community have converted to Christianity.