Burji Farmers of the Desert: The Story of the Expert Agriculturalist

The desert farmers (2020) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

Farmers of The Desert: The Expert Agriculturalist (Burji community)

The Burji Farmers of the Desert: The Expert Agriculturalist
A long time ago, in the 16th Century, Burji and their cousins Borana and Konso lived happily in Liban in Southern Ethiopia. Because of the close bond that existed between them they are sometimes spoken of as “the three brothers” or “companions in fate”. Together, they carried out an annual sacrifice for the well-being of the land. The cousins took turns to provide a sheep for the purpose. They prepared their sacrificial sheep in advance, by preserving it in a special place for it to fatten.

Farmers of The Desert: The Expert Agriculturalist (Burji community)

One day, during the Borana’s turn to provide the sacrificial sheep, the Konso did something that would change the relationship between the three cousins forever. The night before the sacrifice took place, the Konso stole the Borana’s special sheep, ate it, and threw the bones in front of the Burji's door. This made it look like the Burji had stolen the sheep.

Farmers of The Desert: The Expert Agriculturalist (Burji community)

The next day the annual sacrificial ceremony did not take place; instead a joint meeting was called to investigate the theft. The Burji did not come to the meeting because he was the Liban elder and also because he had a clear conscience. The affair grew into a serious conflict and finally, the angry Borana drove the Burji and Konso out of Liban.

Before they were driven out, however, important spiritual ceremonies had to be done under the Gada order, whose origins were in Liban. They each declared separate activities for their clan’s survival. They then set off to their new settlements in different areas of what is today referred to as northern Kenya.

Farmers of The Desert: The Expert Agriculturalist (Burji community)

The Burji swore to be farmers, to feed the Borana who had chased them away from Liban, with grains of life. From Liban, they carried with them African Moringa and various species of sorghum. They settled in Boohee Burji and perfected their love for agriculture, and became expert farmers. To date the Burji are highly regarded as agricultural experts famous for their skills and ability to farm the arid lands.

The legacy of the Burji Farmers lives on
Good agriculture is paramount to the survival of humankind. The Burji are referred to as expert farmers due to their skills in farming arid land. As climate change leads to lower and more erratic rainfall, many farmers can learn from the Burji who have already developed ways of farming that are effective in the arid lands.

Good agriculture is paramount to the survival of humankind. The Burji are referred to as expert farmers due to their skills in farming arid land.
Farmers hold the backbone of the agricultural system. For a country to progress, the gross domestic product should be reasonable and agriculture is one of the important parts. Without food, there is no life.

The agricultural system can only survive if crops are planted and harvested. Good farming also reduces the risk of harmful contamination of agricultural produce. Good farmers follow best practices for reducing microbial contamination to ensure that the food they sell to the public will not cause harm or illness for consumers.

Credits: Story

Credits: Story
Research field work was undertaken in Samburu and Marsabit (for Gabbra, Samburu, Rendille, Saakuye, Dasanach, Elmolo, Waayu a.k.a Waata, and Burji superheroes/heroines), Embu and Tharaka (for Aembu, Tharaka, Ameru and Mbeere superheroes/heroines), Mombasa ( for Boni, Swahili, Pokomo, Segeju and Bajuni superheroes/heroines)and Taita-Taveta/Voi (for Taveta superheroes/heroines) capturing all information about the heroes from the 40 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team. The illustrations were done using digital media by Shujaa Stories Limited.

National Museums of Kenya - Contributors
Mzalendo Kibunjia (PhD) - Director General
Purity Kiura (PhD) - Director Antiquities, Sites & Monuments
Julias Juma Ogega - Senior Curator/Research Scientist
Njuguna Gichere - Research Scientist
Lydia Gatundu - Art of Curator
Emmanuel Kariuki - Exhibit Designer
Philemon Nyamanga - Curator/Research Scientist
Mercy Gakii - Curator/Research Scientist
Imelda Muoti - Curator/Archivist
Innocent Nyaga - Marketing Officer
Suzanne Wanjaria - Exhibits Designer
Ray Balongo Khaemba - Senior Collection Manager
Raphael Igombo - Education Officer
Eddy Ochieng – Photographer/Videographer

Concept Developer:
Shujaa Stories Ltd

Creative Direction:
Tatu Creatives Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd

Shujaa Stories Ltd – Contributors
Masidza Sande Galavu - Illustrator
Jeff Muchina- Editing
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Illustrator
Brian Kiraga – Research and Writing
Daisy Okoti - Editing
Shani Mutarura - Editing
Juelz Laval – Photography/Videographer
Linda Tambo - Photography

Other Contributors
Nature Kenya- The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)
Spellcast Media

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Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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