Friday, 7 December 2012

Northern Kenya

For what now seems a  long time ago I was fortunate to live with pastoralists in Northern Kenya.

I worked on  on a stock substitution programme to introduce camels to their traditionally cattle based society.  Cattle are more than livestock in this part of the world. They are financial banks on the hoof and for many  societies the bedrock of the curse of lobola (the bride price) which is an endless source of grief across Africa.

Occasionally Wilfred Thesiger used to wander up from his base at Maralal for conversation and just to ensure I was still alive. He was a great man and an outstanding writer, but  could never be persuaded to pack his own camels.

Camels and sand dams are two of my passions. In the right context they are both environmental superstars for arid lands. The more familiar boreholes for watering livestock do work, but more often open a pandora's box of conflict over ownership and access rights.

In those days local news travelled slowly and the endless cycle of cattle theft between the Turkana, Pokot and everyone else was fought out with spears.

Camel scraping out a seasonal dam
Today the land is drier and competition for resources has increased, with automatic weapons replacing spears as the weapon of choice.

This however remains a unique land that  shape's perspective on your own life.  The sense of light and space  is immense and the people are of a special quality to both survive here and enjoy this wonderful place.