The Samburu People: Conservation in Kenya is impossible without the Samburu

NAMUNYAK, Northern Rangeland Trust, the SAMBURU people

Working with the indigenous Samburu people, the Northern Rangelands Trust has changed attitudes of the local communities towards wildlife and, most importantly, made the area safe from poachers. With the income from the camp, and from private donors, the trust hopes to keep attracting more and more animals back to the area. As previously indicated, conservation is impossible without the Samburu. They provide the eyes and ears on the land to keep it safe from poachers. Their ephemeral wells are a magnet for wildlife in a very arid landscape, and to some extent, even their grazing helps stimulate new growth and life.

Who Are The Samburu

The Samburu tribe are a Nilotic tribe that inhabits Kenya's northern plains. They are a Maa-speaking group, and are very similar to the Maasai tribe. Like the Maasai, the Samburu are nomadic pastoralists, moving from one place to another following patterns of rainfall in search of fresh pasture and water for their cattle, camels, goats and sheep.

The Samburus are considered even more traditional and remote than their Maasai kin, and have maintained the authenticity of their culture by sticking to their ancient traditions and defying modern trends.

History of the Samburu

Samburu history is intertwined with that of Kenya's other Nilotic tribes. Samburus are known to have originated from Sudan, settling north of Mount Kenya and south of Lake Turkana in Kenya's Rift Valley area. Upon their arrival in Kenya in the 15th century, the Samburu parted ways with their Maasai cousins, who moved further south while the Samburu moved north. The Samburu were not very affected by British colonial rule since the British did not find their land particularly attractive.

The Samburu tribe speaks the Maa language, as do the Maasai

However, although they share a vocabulary, the Samburu speak more rapidly than the Maasai. Together with the Maasai and Turkana tribes, the Samburu are among the few African tribes who have remained culturally authentic by clinging to their traditional way of life.

The Samburu dress

The Samburu dress is so similar to the Maasai that it is hard to distinguish between the two tribes. Both Samburu men and women dress in brightly colored traditional shukas, which they wrap loosely around their bodies. Samburu men also dye their hair with red ochre, while the women adorn themselves in beautiful, multi-beaded necklaces and other traditional jewelry. Samburu warriors, or morans, keep their long hair in braids and dress in more colorful attire than other members of the tribe.