We have some images to share of an incredible operation undertaken recently by our team in cooperation with an expert Kenya Wildlife Service Elephant darting team. Delicate and lifesaving work by our devoted team!
Report from Colin Francombe Ol Malo/Muridjo :
L’Tepes area between Uaso River and Oldonyiro. Approx. 3rd March 2014: 8 shots reported at approx. 1830 and 3 armed moran seen following elephant.
1 elephant wounded and on 20 Mar reported lame on right front leg.
28 Mar KWS vet, Mathew, collected and the elephant was anaesthetised from helicopter. She had gunshot wounds in right front leg, neck and trunk. The wounds were treated and she was given 220cc Betamox LA. She is an old cow and recovering slowly.
There is no explicit ownership of land and water for the Samburu. In theory any stockowner has a right to live with whom he pleases where he pleases. Certain areas are associated with certain clans but anyone is free to migrate to these places. This is our land, they say, it belongs to us all.
The Waso River has been the main source of water into northern Kenya for hundreds of years. Changing weather patterns, development and irrigation up stream now means that this is no longer a river – more of a seasonal river, which dries during drought years and floods during the rainy season.
Our aim is to provide clusters of water – building a sustainable network of reservoirs throughout the region.
We started with a simple goal; to improve the lives of our Samburu neighbours.
In just over 10 years our small and energetic team have returned sight to more than 500 people.
Eye Camps Overview 2014
- Julia Francombe
Very few of us ever stop to think how lucky we are to wake up each morning with our eyes. Watch our children play or see the sunrise.
In Samburuland community life is still very strong and everyone is carefully taken care of. The children lead and care for the blind. When an adult loses their sight – a child loses their childhood. More
In 2012 I was at a Samburu wedding, at a manyatta nestled in the hills behind Ol Donyiro.
While I was sitting chatting to the mamas I noticed an old man under a tree being led home by a small child. He was hunched over and holding a stick, the child carefully selecting a path without to many rocks. More
We have spent the last ten years developing a school system which works for nomadic Samburu children between the ages of 4 – 10 years old. Our aim was always simple and clear – to make education available for pastoralist children who would otherwise never have the chance to learn.
‘Move, listen and learn’ by training teachers from the specific family clan we ensure the teachers move with the children, livestock and families.
A Lorora is a clan manyatta, where members of a particular clan amongst the Samburu meet and settle for a short while either for protection during times of tribal fighting or to celebrate rites of passage for its members young and old.
A Lorora can have up to 300 houses in it, so many that the women often forget where to find their home and the children get lost in the maze of houses. The layout of homes begins with the oldest family within the clan, moving in a clockwise direction outwards. The Samburu relate this to the structure of a cow; beginning with the head (the first families) moving down the back with houses of families, and finishing with the tail.
Last Chapter we told Julia’s story of the Trust Nomad Education Program. To follow up this week we’ve put together some footage we took of elders blessing a new eco-school in 2011.
The school is in the Kalwalash area of Kipsing in Samburuland and shows the elders blessing the school a few days before it opens. One senior elder is calling the blessing, with everyone replying ‘ngai’ which means god.
Trust founder Julia Francombe has written this Chapter to tell us her story of how the Trust started its nomad education program and some background on how it works.
The drought in northern Kenya lasted longer than 2 years – the men and warriors left the main homesteads to take their dying herds further afield looking for pasture. It was a terrible time – starving people and mountains of dying cattle.
Being a kid in Samburuland is like no other childhood.
To be young is to follow strict rules in a loving family environment. There are many eyes watching you with making sure you are learning and behaving. There’s lots of time with grandparents and aunties and uncles and cousins, endless singing and dancing. It’s a rich world of storytelling.
Narrapu – A Samburu word for improvement or uplifting.
Project Narrapu represents a holistic and innovative approach to a troubled and remote area of Kenya.
Its aim is to transform the lives of its community in the areas of;
Security – Of property, livelihood, environment and wildlife.
Education – A network of nomadic schools being a highly effective education system for tribal children.
Prosperity – With improved access to clean water for people, livestock and wildlife.
Health – Through better access to health services, and support for health crises and epidemics.
There are many programs in operation by the Trust under the umbrella of Project Narrapu, some are in development and others are stretching successfully into their second or third decades.
This week we’re going to begin a regular look at these programs, beginning with one of our oldest and most life changing, The Trachoma Eradication Program, initiated to combat a debilitating and easily preventable eye infection called Trachoma.
From the outset it appears to be a life without calendars and deadlines, however the Samburu live in a cycle dictated by their environment and followed with regimental precision. An example of this can be seen in the precisely organised structure of the Soko market system.
In Samburuland word travels fast over the vast bush telegraph, however day to day life is fairly remote, with families living in manyattas and most social contact coming from individuals passing through.
This week we are happy to be able to share a guest post from Kenya Wildlife Service honorary warden Colin Francombe.
Colin has been living in Northern Kenya for 50 years and is a devoted conservationist. His knowledge of the Samburu and their ecosystem is encyclopaedic and he is highly respected amongst the Samburu as an elder of the Kimaniki age group.
In 1989 Kenya took a stand by burning its ivory stockpiles, worth millions of dollars, in the hope that other countries would follow suit and prevent the African elephant from extinction. This statement strengthened the newly formed CITIES total ban on ivory trade, collapsing the market on ivory and allowing the Elephant to recuperate.
In 1997 the total ban was lifted to allow experimental trade with China and Japan, now blamed for fueling a market that has seen a population of 300,000 African Elephants dwindle to an approximate 20,000, facing local extinctions all over Africa.
Colin was instrumental in the kind of action that these Elephant now desperately need once again if they are to survive, and this week he shares with us his tale of the Ivory Bonfire: More
Samburu fashion is world renowned and totally distinctive, this week we’re going to look at the fashion of the morani.
The one thing that surprises most people to learn about morani fashion is how fluid and organic it is, constantly evolving like the fashion of any other culture.
Samburu beadwork originates from about four centuries ago when trade brought colourful beads from Eastern Europe. This has spawned an obsession with bright colour that flows through clothing and jewelry and into storytelling; the greatest channels of Samburu self expression.
For the warriors it’s the pinnacle of beauty and strength, nothing impresses more than big healthy bulls, a big herd of cattle, striking and colourful beadwork, and stories of great courage to back it all up with.
We are now in week 14 of the Chapters and have covered most of what you could call ‘the basics’ of the traditional Samburu way of life. We are now looking to introduce you to lesser known, highly sophisticated aspects of their culture. This week we begin with the singing wells.
The link that the morani have with their cattle is a focal point of Samburu culture. Singing itself is one of their most vibrant forms of self expression and deserves a Chapter of its own later, but generally can be described as a singing free form of storytelling.
When morani take their cattle to water it is a powerful experience, they are literally feeding their obsession and maintaining their greatest asset, it’s a sacred moment with their greatest passion.
Three weeks ago we told the story of a poached elephant and a little about the devastating rise in ivory trade. This week we tell you the fate of the mother’s missing orphan.
A couple of weeks had passed since we lost the trace of the orphan. There had been one small shower, not enough to nourish the land, but enough to completely wipe any baby elephant tracks in the area it was last seen.
Rising early Talis and I walked to the luga to redig a well. Around midday we walked to the point where it meets the Waso river and came across some morani. These Morani had come from further north and were walking to soko (markets) which were taking place the next day about half a day’s walk away. They told us a young baby had been spotted with a herd way north on the Waso. We knuckled down to walk through the intense heat of the afternoon.
A large river ecosystem that begins its journey with two tributaries from the base of Mt. Kenya and the Nyandarua ranges, it flows through the heart of Samburuland and out into the arid Somali desert to the northeast.
It is only Kenya’s third largest river but provides water to a massive area of land and is known as the lifeblood of the north. In that way it’s very similar to the Samburu, who are small in numbers but cover an incredible amount of land compared to other Kenyan cultures.
In Samburuland water is something invisible that you focus on at all times. For me it was something I had to learn to live without, the Samburu I met thrive with the bare minimum.
1. an elder from the lkimankiki age group, the most senior of the elders, wearing his ceremonial earrings and beads during a coming of age ceremony
The Elders lead the Samburu with their great wisdom.
While the morani lead by protecting the cattle, the decisions are made by the elders in their ability to interpret the ever-changing environment in which they live.
To understand the elders we have to understand a little about Samburu age groups. A moran becomes a junior elder when his generation’s time protecting the tribe is over and they are allowed to find wives and settle down.
1. two bullets on a poached Elephant’s skin, one unspent round used as an example provided by a KWS ranger for the photo and one recovered from the Elephant in autopsy
This is a personal account of an Elephant that was poached while
I was living with Talis in Waso, and the search for her orphaned calf.
We heard from one of our wildlife monitors that an Elephant had been poached near the Sieku valley. Our monitors are trained to check for breast milk that would indicate that her calf may be too young to survive alone with the herd.
We arrived and were shown the body of the mother. She was lying under a tree next to a gulley and her body had already had signs of hyena trying to feed on her the night before.
The Samburu are well known for the strength of their warriors, but the little known silent strength of the mamas are the driving force behind society.
Each area in Samburuland has their NGAMITONI, which means Matriarch. This is a mama that leads the women and her community with incredible strength. This word originated from the way Samburu talk about Elephant. The literal translation is ‘the leader of the elephants controls the rest when moving’.
While the morani hold the strength of the cattle and lead battles, and the elders lead the direction of the community, the mamas hold the manyattas and children, they run everything at the community level.
A mama is a mother, a married woman with children, effectively the female equivalent of a moran. Their immense strength binds their community together and drives it along.
It’s not easy being a mama, they shoulder the majority of domestic work, often including difficult labor. However in a western sense it’s not easy being any Samburu. To us it’s a life of hard work but to them it’s their lifestyle, one with immense payoff.
The warriors are one of the most fascinating aspects of the Samburu.
Their fashion, their battles, their status is so interesting for many people that when looking at the Samburu the morani are all they can see. People are drawn to them.
In society the morani are revered and secretive. Their sole purpose is to protect the sacred cattle, so by association they are revered as demi-gods. Their influence in society is massive; they drive the boundaries of the land, increasing the grazing and protect them for the tribe.
It’s one of the defining characteristics of their culture. Their home sees desertification for the better part of every year, and recently for years at a time.
The most common water source in Samburuland is the Waso Nyiro River, which has been dry in the last few years for the first time in living memory, and below ground, found in places where water naturally collects during the rains and flows downstream into the Waso system.
There is nothing in Samburu society more important than Cattle.
They are the most blessed; simultaneously the family’s life savings, their bank, and even the money itself. The cattle are their greatest asset, and wealth can be greatly admired.
On top of their financial importance they are in themselves a free, self-replenishing, self-expanding supermarket chain. You can cover a majority of the Samburu diet by drinking their milk and blood alone and for extremely important ceremonies you can slaughter them then eat and wear them. Absolutely nothing is wasted.
Nosokoni was a little girl that was attacked by an elephant while collecting firewood.
This is the story of her ordeal and recovery as described by Julia Francombe, the founder of the Samburu Trust. This story was originally written by artist Annie Tempest, and has now been re-edited for the Waso Chapters.
Julia grew up in Samburuland, her parents Rocky and Colin run a private game ranch called Ol Malo that sits on the edge of the Laikipia Plateau in the remote desertlands of northern Kenya.
On June 15th, 2000 some elders brought in a 6 year old girl to the ranch that had been crushed by an extremely large bull elephant.
‘The herdsman’s relationship to his domestic animals is . . characterized by neither preying nor becoming a parasite on them . . in bad times, the successful pastoralist loses weight with his herds rather than maintaining it at their expense’ – Mike Rainy
On my first day living with the Samburu, Julia told me that during drought some morani (warriors) would take all the family’s cattle and climb a mountain where there is better pasture for grazing.
1. moran on Lekurugi
They’ll go alone and if the drought becomes extreme the cows will get thinner and thinner and start dying off, and the moran will get thinner with them because he will be living off only their milk.
The fire inside the house has been stoked periodically all night and it’s built up again at dawn to make sweet sweet chai. This is delicious Kenyan tea boiled in goat, camel, or cow’s milk with numerous spoons of sugar in every cup.
It’s the great Samburu social pastime, in most houses this is the one time of day a family will get to spend together alone. Many cups of chai are consumed first thing to build up a good sugar high that will last you through the day until your one meal in the evening.
It’s a modular style of architecture that follows a few basic rules to keep families and their livestock safe.
Manyattas (ie enclosures, walls and shelters) have minimal impact on the environment and can be built in a day, while houses take between one and two weeks. The Samburu are semi-nomadic so they might stay in one manyatta for months at a time, and then get up in the morning and pack it all up and leave.
This is our thank you to our donors for years of generosity.
Also, this is an introduction for many who have never heard of the Trust or even the Samburu before.
Most importantly this is for the Samburu, the semi-nomadic warriors of Kenya’s Northern Desertlands, as a fundraising tool for their benefit. We have named it after the Waso, the major river system in Northern Kenya and the lifeblood of the Samburu.
What we want to do with these posts is introduce you to the Samburu through long-form blog posts about aspects of their way of life; creative impressions from personal experiences with close friends, moraani (warriors) and mamas (married women) alike.
These Chapters will be weekly, in between general Trust news posts. There is a glossary on the right with Samburu terms that we will add to as we go on.
Please look at our glossary of Samburu words to the right for definitions of Samburu terms.
Waso is an area of semi-arid desertlands in southern Samburuland, the vast tribelands of the Samburu of Northern Kenya. Dotted with small hills and snaked by the Waso river, it is surrounded by hills and mountains to the South and West, and in the North and East it stretches into the desert.