This project will document the material knowledge integral to semi-nomadic pastoralism in the Turkana Basin of northern Kenya. It will do so by focusing on the highly specialised household material culture assemblages of a range of Turkana, Daasanach and Rendille communities who live in the regions surrounding Lake Turkana in non-industrialised contexts long excluded from wider processes of economic and infrastructural development. These quotidian assemblages underpin mobile food systems that have long been oriented around animal products, playing fundamental roles within much broader livelihoods and institutions, and allowing transhumant pastoralists to thrive in northern Kenya’s harsh environments. Whilst it pertains to several different pastoralist groups, the knowledge documented by this project thus collectively underpins pastoral mobility in the Lake Turkana area. The skills and material histories we will record pertain to the unique relationships forged by pastoralists with northern Kenya’s landscapes and resources. These relationships, although diverse and multifaceted, collectively constitute a flexible and open-ended socio-economic orientation towards environmental uncertainty commonly held by those whose lives and societies are oriented around livestock in northern Kenya’s communal, open rangelands.

This knowledge has already, in many cases, come to be confined to older generations following livelihood transformations propelled by climate change, infrastructural expansion and new economic opportunities. Recent years have seen the sedentarisation of numerous previously mobile communities. At this critical juncture, this project will record the skill and knowledge in which northern Kenya’s contemporary pastoralist material culture is entangled, and the unwritten histories that converge in its contemporary use.

Primary Applicant:
Samuel F. Derbyshire

Luke Lomeiku Lonyaman
Michael Lokuruka

Location of Research:
Turkana, Marsabit, Kenya

Host Institution:
Turkana Basin Institute


Top Banner Image: Rendille villages east of Lake Turkana (Photo: Elliot Leakey)