During my history class some years down the line I have heard and read about the similarities that are there between the Njemps and the Samburu people but I have never come across one to least interact with and gauge the similarity personally.
My road trip to Lake Baringo was my first and maybe only chance to meet this people. The trip from Kericho to Lake Baringo was a bit rough and bumpy due to the spoiled roads. We drove past several dry rivers and the climate was very hot but the sight of Lake Baringo relieved us of this rough journey. Journey to Robert’s camp – Lake Baringo – is a two hours’ drive from Nakuru along Nakuru Marigat road.
Baringo County around the shores of Lake Baringo is the home to a unique community of Njemps people. They are the only pastoralist community that practise fishing along with the traditional livestock keeping.
During my stay at Robert’s camp I met James one of the community member and a worker at Robert’s camp. We shared some good moments with him and he gave me a lot of information about his people- Njemps and their living conditions. He told me that they are linguistically related with both the Maasai and Samburu who considered fish eating a taboo. He also told me that genetically they are more related to Samburu who happen to be their immediate neighbours on the eastern side bordering Samburu County. The language similarity was evident through the conversation we had.it was very easy and possible to communication between me and him using our local language: his being Njemps and mine Samburu.
It’s believed that the Njemps are descendants of a Samburu clan called Il-toijo hence their similarity in cultural practices. Njemps people dress, dance and carry out ceremonies such as circumcision and marriage exactly in the similar manner as the Samburu people do. If you go to Lake Baringo Kokwe Island, you will be able to dance with Njemps people who inhabit the island after they ran away from main land due to hostility from the Pokot people.
For the recent years due to pollution growth Njemps people have adapted permanent settlements and practice sedentary agriculture along the shores of the lake.
Education is a challenge to this people and most of the children are taught how to fish and look after the few animals they have. Most of them can access primary education since there are several schools around. However, secondary education is tricky since there are few where they have to walk for many kilometres.
Tourism is one of the major sources of revenue to this community. They have community owned boats for boat riding by the visitors as they go around the lake for bird watching, to the islands and also Deep Sea swimming for those who can swim.
The feeling of warm waters of lake Baringo, hospitable people and bird watching are still fresh in my mind and Lake Baringo is at my top list of must-visit again places.