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Ch. 35: Day in the life of a Mama


We want to show everyone what it’s like to be one of the Mamas in our bead workshop. Our mamas live a tough life, one that they love, and in times of harsh drought when running a manyatta things can become extremely difficult.

So when we’re able to assist them by work together on beaded items using their incredible bead and colour skills, it can take a lot of pressure off them.


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Dermeras comes to Ol Malo to bead with us. Her children are all enrolled in our Nomad Schools on the ranch so they all come together each morning.


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A day will always start in the manyatta with hot, sweet tea made from cow, goat, or camel’s milk.


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Shortly after dawn the livestock are sent out with some of her older children who will spend the day grazing and protecting them.


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In times of severe drought her husband may have to take the cattle far away to look for pasture.


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In these times a manyatta can become very lean, with no milk and very little to live off. The extreme drought of 1999 is why we started our bead workshop, to provide responsible relief for these mamas and their children, who were malnourished and in danger of sickness.


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Dermeras and her kids meet up with another mama from a manyatta close by, who is coming into the workshop with her kids.


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Waiting for stragglers


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Arriving at the primary school


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All the kids waiting on the wall for their teacher to arrive


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The teacher cruises in!


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All kids do morning exercises before school to get their bodies and their brains working


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The older kids stay up at the top school while the rest of the group continues on down to the daycare and workshop


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Arriving at the daycare, a school for the younger kids


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The kids mill about waiting for their teacher to tell them they can go to the playground


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And they’re off!


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The playground is all made from found wood, with a huge jungle gym and a swing for two


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Meanwhile the mamas start their work


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All beading is done by hand with traditional materials and ancient techniques


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Today they are working on a new design with leather and beads.


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When it comes to midday another mama is making lunch for all the school kids, and all beading mamas too


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All the kids come down and have their lunch before heading back home in the hot sun


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If you wish to help
Please get in touch with us at or make contact with Sam (US) or Alun (UK)

also check out our donate page to donate online.


Ch. 34: Finally a system for water that works

In the arid north of Kenya water means life.

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.


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Walking across the open plains of Kirimon the vast expanse stretches off into haze, undercutting the hills to the north and making them levitate in the heat on the horizon.

1.a moran on the savannah of the laikipia plateau

This beautiful savannah lies on the edge of the Laikipia plateau in Samburuland, and a dramatic escarpment that drops and undulates towards the Waso Ngiro river, the lifeblood of the Samburu.

Along this volcanic plateau you find natural depressions, gradual slopes that interrupt the plain and signify the oncoming descent.




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.


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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.




‘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.