Explore and Understand Africa Through Her Food and Culture

If you like honey, fear not the bees. -African Proverb

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Samburu of Kenya Loss of Culture

The Samburu tribe were on the losing end of the 17,100 acre Laikipia National Park land ownership dispute with the Nature Conservancy, and the African Wildlife Foundation and the Kenya Wildlife Service.


The Samburu live just north of the equator in the Rift Valley province of Northern Kenya. The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai of East Africa. They speak a similar language, derived from Maa, which is called Samburu.

Samburu child by alaina buzas
The Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Cattle, as well as sheep, goats and camels, are of utmost importance to the Samburu culture and way of life. 

The Samburu are extremely dependent on their animals for survival. On November 11, 2011, thousands of the Samburu livestock were impounded due to a dispute over land ownership with Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation who purchased the land and gave it as a gift to Kenya for a national park, to be called Laikipia National Park. The Samburu's legal case was heard in the town of Nyeri December 14, 2011 and the court ruled The Kenya Wildlife Service had secured legal registration of the land.

Traditionally men look after the cattle and they are also responsible for the safety of the tribe. Samburu boys learn to tend cattle from a young age. The Rift Valley province in Kenya is a dry, somewhat barren land, and the Samburu have to move constantly to ensure their cattle can feed. Around every 6 weeks, the group will move to find fresh grazing grounds. These settlements are called manyattas.
As with many traditional tribes, the Samburu are under pressure from their government to settle into permanent villages. They have been extremely reluctant to do so since obviously permanent settlement would disrupt their entire way of life. 

The area they live in is very arid and it's difficult to grow crops to sustain a permanent site. This basically means the Samburu will become dependent on others for their survival. Since status and wealth in Samburu culture is synonymous with the amount of cattle one owns, a sedentary agricultural lifestyle is not in the least attractive.

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The eye never forgets what the heart has seen - African Proverb

A tree without roots cannot survive the wind

A tree without roots cannot survive the wind
African Proverb