SAMBURU - the name of a people, the land they live on and the language they speak. 

The Samburu are a pastoral, nomadic tribal community numbering over 250,000 people. Their land, 8,000 square miles is located approximately 250 miles north of Nairobi. This area is remote, arid and beautiful. The Samburu, known as the "butterfly people," are recognized by their decorative style of dress, their deep reliance on livestock and a tribal way of life. Living according to their tribal traditions, men graze livestock of goats, cows and camels while women remain in a homestead called a "manyatta" with their children. Known for their beautiful beaded collars, women are tasked with household chores, the most important being the procurement of water.  

Samburu women and girls walk up to 12 miles every day looking for water and often return home to their children with an empty jerry can. If they are lucky enough to find water, it is most likely unclean, originating from gaping, hand-dug wells contaminated by wildlife and livestock. Drinking contaminated water can result in diarrhea, one of the leading causes of death in Samburu.

Spending the majority of their day searching for water leaves no time for these women to develop income-generating businesses, care for children, become more informed about their human rights or send their children to school. Oftentimes girls do not attend school because they are expected to join their mothers in this quest for water.

Compounding the severity of this situation, range land resources are less available due to extreme drought as well. The decline in livestock productivity in turn reduces household income and food security.

This lack of clean drinking water affects every aspect of daily life for the Samburu people;  including health, education, income generation, food security, empowerment, and the family dynamic. It perpetuates a life in poverty. Simply stated, water is life.  


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  • 844 million people lack access to safe water - that is 1 in 8 people. The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.

  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Diarrhea, not AIDS, malaria or measles, is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 in Samburu, Kenya.

  • Samburu women and girls walk up to 12 miles every day in search of water.

  • Walking miles with 44 pounds of water can result in neck and back ailments, miscarriage and a host of other physical maladies. 

  • Time spent walking for water undermines education for girls. Investment in drinking water and sanitation would result in 272 million more school attendance days a year. 
  • Walking for water in isolation in Samburu can be dangerous, leaving women and girls victim to all variety of predators. 

  • The lack of clean water directly contributes to food insecurity and lack of dietary diversity. 
  • Water Changes Everything!


You can be a force for change to the Samburu.