Short description of the Samburu community

The Samburu community is the Nilotic ethnic community of North Central Kenya. They dress in red shukas and adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets and anklets mostly from beads. They believe in God Nkai, living in the mountains. They are nomadic are pastoralists, meaning that they keep animals (e.g., cows, goats, sheep and camel) which is their main source of livelihood as they get milk, meat and blood for self consumption and/or to be sold. They move from place to place in search of pasture and water. Land is largely communally owned in form of group ranches, and it is a source of pasture for the livestock and at some arable places, it is cultivated.

Within the community, sacred places include big mountains, rocks and water bodies which are often used to hold prayer sessions to the supreme being seeking for divine intervention and for cultural ceremonies or to give sacrifices to God as they believe that God created the universe and everything on it.

Languages spoken by the community


Location of community

Samburu County
1°22'50.6"N, 36°55'58.2"E

Can you explain how your community relates to the environment?

Samburu are very friendly people and they are conservationist by nature. They coexist and protect the environment. They  discourage irresponsible destruction of  trees, animals and water points. The community believes that the land, water, trees and everything in the world belongs to God and therefore, its their mandate to protect all natural resources. In our community, it is a taboo for anyone to kill a wild animal. Both wild and domestic animals graze together. 

The presence or disappearance of particular insects and birds and their songs are indicative of weather changes. The flowering or shading of leaves from trees are signs of short rains on the way. Changes in wind intensity and directions tells us about the coming rains or droughts and indicate possible direction to migrate to for pastures.

Can you explain how your community relates to water?

Water is life! Just like other communities and people around the world, Samburu value water as a very precious commodity as they know no one survives without it. Water is used by people, both wild and domestic animals. It is very much valued.

Tell us about yourself and your relation to water.

I value water. Water is life. My role is to champion easy access to water by all community members and their animals but most importantly that women to walk less kilometres in search of water. My role to advocate for healthy people and environment.

Tell us about your role within your community and if it is related to water, how so? 

My role is to champion for easy access to clean water for my community and for women to walk less kilometres in search of water. My role is to promote water and sanitation (primary health care).

Is there an important water body on your land? If so, can you name and describe it? 

Yes we do have an important water body in our land, Malaluwa. In Samburu, Malalua refers to a natural small dam where water is collected during rains. It is a natural salty dam where all livestock go consue the salty water and some salts which are desired by them. Naturally, Malalua is a cultural water dam which has so many meaning to Samburu. Due to prolonged droughts, the Malalua has very little  water and on a verge of drying up.

In your or your communities view, what is the most important aspect humanity should act upon with regards to water?

In our community we believe that water is an important commodity and that water is life both for the community and the animals. Hence it is so important for us to protect water sources from both overexploitation and contamination. 

Water is very important to the Samburus as pastoral communities. During dry spells or droughts, a group of women go to the Malalua to sing, give praise and pray to God to give them rains and the dry spells or droughts. To highlight the importance of water, we need to enhance our knowledge on how to commemorate Water Day. We need more advocates and many campaigns to be done to celebrate Water Day, including planting of trees.

How do you ensure access to safe drinking water in the community, today?

We protect the water sources to avoid overuse and contamination. In the community, water points are fenced with thorny branches, stones or rocks. In addition, open water sources have designated entry points for livestock and the opposite entry for fetching water for domestic use. Water troughs are used for cattle to access water and to ensure minimal misuse of water from wells during the dry season. We also build rock catchments to harvest rain water.

Do you have canalisation, and sanitary facilities in area inhabited by your community? Are community members using them and how satisfied are you with those?

No we do not have canalisation, but we have natural water dams that are owned by communities though water quality is not good. The Malalua serves the communities and livestock, so the  women walk long distances to fetch water from the Malalua and carry it on their backs which is a challenge that needs to be addressed.  

Can you explain how your community relates to space?

The moon, sun, stars, planets and other components of the sky are considered heavenly bodies and are good sources for weather prediction. The Samburu community gets a lot of information from reading the positions of the moon and stars. The moon and the stars are used for mapping out the rains. Certain moon appearances and star patterns signifies the coming rains and droughts respectively.

Can you explain how your community relates to technology?

The technology came recently , most of the communities are still stuck using their old traditional methods of communication.

How does your community pass on knowledge related to the environment (e.g., via narratives, songs, paintings and murals, cloth prints, sculptures, other forms of art, etc.)?

Through narratives, stories and even songs. During droughts, the Samburu women pray and sing songs of praise to God at big 'sacred' mountains and near water bodies requesting for rain mercy.

Which changes in the environment have you or elders in your community observed?

The region is experiencing prolonged droughts which is now resulting in water conflicts whereby people fight for the limited resource. In addition, due to the poor quality of the water used for drinking, we are seeing too many diseases among people and the animals.  

What are the water-related changes you have observed on the land your community lives on? If you have observed changes detrimental to the environment, what is the community currently doing to counteract these changes?

We face issues with: 

  • Water scarcity
  • Access to drinking water
  • Lack of sanitation

Have you encountered cases where space technology applications were used for water/environmental monitoring, management etc? (Please provide examples if any: in general, or within your community, in order to understand need for educational workshop, awareness etc)


If there is something you would like to know about space technology and Earth observation, what would it be?

Using local language to disseminate information.

How does Space4Water add value for you?

I will gain knowledge to support my communities to understand water space.

What features would you like to see implemented on the Space4Water Portal?

Strategies to curb water scarcity.

I would also like to see more features related to gender on the Space4Water Portal, particularly women and their relation to water. Women are the ones who feel the burden of caring water, they are the main users of water within households - washing clothes and for drinking. They also walk long distances to fetch water, and unfortunately most of them sometimes give birth on their way because of long distance. The solution is to reduce the walking distance for women to access and carry water.