The Samburu are a distinct ethnic group in Northern Kenya. Samburu district is 21,000
square kilometers with a population of 167,000. They speak Samburu, which is closely related
to Maa, the language of the Masai. They believe in one God who is manifest in all things in
nature, however many simultaneously practice Christianity and attend church regularly. Many
are nomadic and move periodically in order to find new pastures for their livestock (such as
cattle, goats and camels). These animals are the primary source of income for Samburu people.
As such, their main diet consists of blood, milk, and meat.
The Samburu live in manyattas, which are traditional villages comprised of several huts
made of palm leaves, wood, and roofs of cow dung. Samburu society is divided along generational lines.
For example, single sex groupings of youths close in age undergo rites of passage, such as circumcision,
together. Circumcision continues to be an important marker of the transition into adulthood for both boys
and girls. Once a boy is circumcised he becomes a moran, a warrior. Morans are responsible for protecting
the community and its livestock. Once all the morans in an age set have married, they are considered
elders, the power-holders of the community. For girls, circumcision marks their eligibility for
marriage and for childbirth, though unlike boys they have no say in their choice of spouse.
Samburu men may also marry multiple wives. While women do gain some increased status once they have
born children, they still lack many significant rights, such as the right to inherit property.
Elder women with circumcised boys do enjoy a measure of independence, and so more often engage in
small business endeavours, but a lack of education and business acumen, as well as transportation,
often constrains their success.