Rural Life in Kenya

Uplands Pastoralists

While fossil records suggest that early humans originated from the Great Rift Valley of Africa (leading many to describe the area as the “Cradle of Humankind”), the diverse communities comprising the peoples of Kenya today also reflect more recent migrations through the crossroads from many directions and for many reasons.

Many are pastoralists, whose livelihoods are tied closely to the land, local environment, and their livestock—typically cattle and goats. Homes are traditionally constructed from the natural materials available, and some migrate according to seasonal changes. Because of environmental extremes—from floods to droughts—that affect the land, life is challenging.

Pastoralist groups share the land with some of the world’s most magnificent wildlife, including lions, leopards, and other megafauna. Because generations have lived and worked in such environments with such animals, these communities have gained specialized knowledge that they are now sharing for the collaborative protection of Kenya’s remarkable natural resources. Knowledge of local environments is not only fundamental to pastoralist homes and livelihoods but is also reflected in their bead and jewelry making, basketry, and other arts.

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A Samburu woman walks with a boy in the village of Ngutuk Ongiron, Westgate Conservancy. Photo by Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI, courtesy of Northern Rangelands Trust

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