Turkana - Economy

Subsistence. The Turkana are primarily a pastoral people; they depend on five species of livestock for their subsistence. Camels, cattle, sheep, and goats provide most of their subsistence needs; donkeys are used to transport household goods during migrations. The Turkana who live along the major water courses also engage in small-scale agriculture, and one section of the Turkana, the Ngibocheros, live along the shore of Lake Turkana and depend on fishing and aquatic hunting, as well as herding for subsistence.

Trade. The Turkana remain one of the more isolated ethnic groups in Kenya, and trade is still small in scale. The Turkana sell livestock to buy grains and household needs. The Turkana traditionally traded livestock for iron with ethnic groups in the highlands of Uganda.

Division of Labor. Most aspects of the Turkana economy are strongly influenced by the needs of the livestock and by the migratory pattern. During the rainy season, when all people and animals are together, men are responsible for the daily herding operation, and women are responsible for watering and milking the livestock, feeding the family, and other domestic chores. During the dry season, the livestock are often separated into milking and nonmilking herds. The nonmilking herds are usually herded by young men, who may be separated from the rest of the family for six months or more. During this time, all work related to the livestock is performed by the men.

Land Tenure. The land-tenure system is similar to that of many pastoral peoples. Grazing resources are open to all members of a territorial section; water resources, however, may be open to all or owned. In general, water in rivers and streams when they are flowing, open pools, and shallow wells are not owned. Deep wells dug through sand, clay, or rock are owned by the individual who dug them, and can be used by close male relatives and friends. In northern Turkana, the rules governing access to grazing do not appear to be as strict as those found among the sections living in the south.

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