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From the rolling green hills of Devon to living in the desert with the Samburu Tribe

by Richard Gibson

Arriving in the remote Samburu village of Mpagus was like stepping back in time. Mpagaus is set in a totally arid landscape against a backdrop of mountains and is surrounded by corrals of thorn to protect it. The Samburu live in thatched domed huts sparsely furnished with goat skins and low stools with a fire burning continuously without a chimney. Small huts house goat kids and calves away from the heat and predators. My host family were very welcoming and shared what little they had with me.

Mpagus

Mpagus is the village where I stayed.

Meals are generally once a day of maize porridge, milk and cups of tea(chai).
It was a humbling experience to be involved in their prayers before supper as they were so thankful for what little they had and their faith instilled a belief that they would be looked after.Supplying water for the village is the job of the women. This involves walking forty minutes then dropping ten feet into a well which is dug into a dry river bed of unstable sand. Having experienced going down the well it was then I realized how important it is to have a regular clean adequate supply of water closer at hand. Carrying two five litre cans back forty minutes in heat of 40 degrees reinforced this thought. I now look at a tap at home very differently!
Samburu life is steeped in culture. The goal of most young men is to become young warriors(morans). Their role is to protect the cattle, find strays and dig the wells to water livestock. Cattle numbers are regarded as status symbols so this is a weighty responsibility for them.Farming is pastoral and with no rain for a year the livestock were grazing dead grass and leaves. It can take four hours to get them to the river bed where shallow wells are dug.

Samburu Warrior

Samburu Warrior

I found the kindness and hospitality shown by the village overwhelming. Interestingly their only concession to the 21st century was a small torch. Parts of their lifestyle I found very enviable. In the evenings we would sit outside and talk (they tried to teach me Samburu) and enjoy one another’s company without the interference of modern technology. These are moments I will always treasure.
In summary their faith, communal spirit and positive outlook gives them a great resilience and is remarkable when they could loose everything if they can not find water. In the course of the filming I met two samburu who had lost their cattle to the drought leaving them destitute.

Destitute Samburu Family

Destitute Samburu Family

Farming in Devon has its challenges but finding water is NOT one of them. In contrast Mpagus certainly is the ‘Toughest place to farm’ and I would love to raise funds for a much needed sustainable water supply.