An Outline of Pokot and Himba Societies: Environment, Political Economy and Cultural Beliefs

Publication Year:

The nilotic speaking Pokot of northern Kenya (Rift Valley Province, Baringo District) and the Bantu speaking Himba of northern Namibia (Kaokoland, nowadays Kunene Region) are both pastoral nomadic peoples living on the fringe of young African states. To the traveller, the Himba and Pokot may look similar at first sight: both are exotic looking tribal people who adorn themselves with complex coiffures and wear colourful beads, they dwell in picturesque semi-arid environments, wear leather garments and live in traditional huts. However, despite the traditional appearance of both people colonialism has had a grave and lasting impact in both instances. In both regions herders mainly live off their livestock. While milk and meat is produced by the herds, maize is purchased through market sales of livestock or barter exchange. Decisions on production, distribution and consumption are taken at the household level while the management of communal resources (pastures, water) takes place on a neighbourhood level. The social organisation is shaped — although to very different degrees — by patrilineal and matrilineal descent groups and age-based groups. While chieftaincy among the Pokot is something alien and chiefs and their councillors are government personnel, Himba chiefs exert more authority and gain legitimacy both from local traditions and official acknowledgement. The religious system of the Himba is characterised by an ancestral cult whereas among the Pokot neither beliefs in ancestors nor in a divine being feature importantly.

Publication Title:

Risk Management in a Hazardous Environment

Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation
Item Type:
Book or Magazine Section

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