The Samburu tribe is closely related to the Masai, and is often confused by westerners due to their similar dress. Like the Masai, they are part of the Nilotic family of tribes. They are a distinct tribe, and like the Masai they also live in the north-central regions of Kenya in the Rift Valley. They refer to themselves as the Lokop. The population of the tribe is small, estimated around 150,000 people. Like the Masai, the Samburu tribe is among the most traditional of all African tribes. They mainly still live the same way they always have, and don’t feel any need to change their customs.
A Samburu village is made up of 5 to 8 families living together in somewhat temporary huts, called manyattas. The framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and human urine, and ash. The cow dung ensures the roof is water-proof. They move frequently with their herds. The men are responsible for the safety and protection of the village and the cattle, whereas the women manage the children and all other household work.
Like Kenya’s other pastoralist tribes, the Samburu people rear large herds of cows, sheep, goats and camels, which they openly graze on their communal land. Samburu herdsmen and their animals stay in one grazing area for as long as there is adequate pasture and water, then move on to new pastures once the current pasture has been exhausted. Every time they move, they build a new temporary manyattas village. A low fence of acacia thorns is built to surround the village. This is to protect the cattle and the people.