The Daasanach People


There is no certainty as to the population of the ‘Daasanach but a rough estimation according to the census conducted on the Kenyan side in the year 2009, the number was 10,000. They are made up of eight distinct ancestral/tribal sections, each with its own name, though collectively they call themselves “‘Daasanach”, and they all speak the same language and for the most part share the same cultural practices. There is an estimation of between 60-80,000 who frequent between the Kenya/Ethiopia boarder.

According to the Ethnologue: Languages of the world (Raymond G. Gordon, editor, SIL International, 2005) Daasanach is classified as Afro-Asiatic, Western Omo Tana and is closely related to the Erbore language and the now extinct El Molo language. They are also called Nyi Merille by their neighboring community called Turkana of Kenya. The Daasanach are primarily nomadic pastoralists, who own cattle, donkeys, goats, sheep and some camels. In fertile areas along the Omo River and in the delta they practice flood-retreat agriculture.

Sorghum is their staple crop, but they also plant tobacco, green grams, and field peas.  Away from the delta the terrain is mostly arid scrubland, and the warrior-age men (often with their wives and children) stay on the move searching for good grazing for their livestock. Their small bee-hive shaped houses made of sticks, animal skins, and woven mats can be disassembled, put on the backs of donkeys, and moved within a matter of hours when necessary. But in the temporary cattle and goat camps, the wives of the herdsmen often just make rudimentary structures of sticks and grass, while their skin houses are left in a semi-permanent community near their more sedentary relatives.

Over the past 75 years they have lost the majority of their grazing land in Kenya, including on both sides of Lake Turkana, and the ‘Ilemi Triangle’ of Sudan, which has resulted in a massive decrease in the numbers of cattle, goats and sheep.





2 comments on “The Daasanach People

  1. Matthew Reech Akoi says:

    I need to be a volunteer

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