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.

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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.

1. a herd of goats in Waso

Samburu live the harsh lifestyle of nomads, moving from place to place to graze their cattle, building up and breaking down their manyattas (homesteads). Their land goes from lush green to extreme desert and back in an average year, their lives reflect this with droughts, disease, and tribal warfare constant problems they overcome with honour and pride.

infographic. ethnic affiliations of Kenya

Julia Francombe is the founder of the Samburu Trust. I was introduced to the Samburu through her work with them and have known her and her family for years.

In 2010 I approached Julia about joining the Samburu as a Samburu and learning about their way of life. She agreed to help me on the basis that all our work together would be to their benefit. After months of planning and training I was tentatively introduced to my host.

My posts in these Chapters are going to be about what I’ve learned from my time living around the Waso, and through this provide insight into the Samburu.

In a manyatta mamas (married women) work extremely hard keeping the manyatta running with little say in how it’s run. They wear colourful beadwork, and kikoys and shukas (two types of fabrics used as clothing) and are the hardworking backbone of the Samburu.

2. mama

The warriors (young men) are known as moraani. They defend their cattle, people, and honour from the many threats faced in Samburuland, waiting in hope to rise to the status of elders and take the reins to lead their family and clan.

3. moraan

The manyatta I was living in was split at the time due to the drought. Most of the family were with me while the other part were living with the family’s goats about a half day’s walk away, where there was better grass for them in the drought. This is really common practice for the semi-nomadic Samburu.

Moraani from the manyatta had taken all of the family’s cows out of the Waso area altogether and up onto the Laikipia plateau to the West so that they could ride out the drought with the much longer grass there.

4. cattle on the Laikipia Plateau

Droughts are a constant cycle of life for Samburu living traditionally in this way. It’s easy to assume that these people are victims of drought, however the truth is that drought survival is their way of life and a fierce matter of pride.

5. mamas going to soko (market)

These posts will be released weekly and will cover different aspects of Samburu culture.

Join our facebook page to get updates each week and please forward them on and send us your questions and feedback.


This article is a Samburu Trust collaboration. Please click here for more information.

This Chapter by Sacha Kenyon, Julia Francombe and Moses Lerusion.

All Images and text ©2012 Samburu Trust. All rights reserved.

Image Credits
1-6: S. Kenyon.
infographic: M. Coyle.

  1. Jamie Kenyon

    17/02/2012 - 01:48

    Beautiful first post, very informative, clearly understood and enjoyable.
    Lots of love, JK

  2. Hedy Davant

    19/02/2012 - 22:20

    Really moving facts.
    Will foloow the blogs.

  3. vittoria pasquini

    20/02/2012 - 01:46

    Beautiful photos. Very touching story. Thank you for creating this blog. I will forward the address around to my friend. Love vittoria

  4. Ambrogio Melosu

    20/02/2012 - 05:39

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. mjk

    21/02/2012 - 11:17

    Finally reading the story of your time there which is great. Will send wesite on

    • Ryoko

      26/04/2012 - 05:39

      A great beginning Sacha. Well wrteitn and marvellous photos. I also thought the last comment was very powerful. The amazing will to survive in challenging climactic conditions. The ability to exploit a niche and turn it to advantage. Like Australian desert aborigines.

  6. Tony Amos

    21/02/2012 - 21:09

    Your last comment is very powerful Sacha, I look forward to getting more depth on this.

  7. Nick Marshall

    03/03/2012 - 03:22

    A great beginning Sacha. Well written and marvellous photos. I also thought the last comment was very powerful. The amazing will to survive in challenging climactic conditions. The ability to exploit a niche and turn it to advantage. Like Australian desert aborigines.

  8. Jenny Hume

    07/07/2012 - 09:38

    Mum forwarded this to me. Beautiful Photoes Sachs, I think you’ve found your medium jb Hume xx

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