THE culture and history of the people of Baringo County cannot be found in the general folk tales of the Kalenjin community of the Rift valley. It is best sought in the stories and traditions built around their own fact of existence in an area that is unique in many ways.
The uniqueness lies in its semi-arid conditions, in its locations, fauna and flora which have for years attracted travellers and traders from distant countries and who have in turn influenced and enriched the culture and history of Baringo. This uniqueness must have inspired the imagination and creativity of the early Man of Baringo and entranced the visitors and traders who have in turn enriched the culture of Baringo.
THE journey of Baringo starts in earnest probably more than six million years ago with an early man known by scientists as Orrorin tugenensis. His remains were discovered around the Tugen Hills in 2001.
Orrorin tugenensis, scientists believe, makes Tugen Hills the origin of Mankind and therefore a repository of world culture.
And instinctively human beings have been drawn to the hills since time immemorial. Among them were early traders.
These early traders were Indians who brought along with them the famous tamarind trees of Tugen Hills. Then there were Arab slave dealers whose presence was immortalized by naming the trees brought by the Indians as tamarid tree.
Early trade also involved ivory, cowries shells , gold brass and hides.
The connection with traders from the coast of Kenya is something treasured by the Tugens of Baringo. In deed, a recent cultural festival held at the site of Koroto— a slave and trading center – featured ‘Lamu eyes’ traditionally nailed to the front of a dhow to keep away the evil eye.
Lamu’s Evil Eye
Following hot on the heels of the Arabs were the Europeans led by the famous explorer Joseph Thomson in 1883. But it was colonialism that brought in a flood of Europeans especially administrators, educationists and Christians whose influence was much far-reaching. Many places in Baringo—including the capital town of Kabarnet—were named for some of these influential Europeans.
Other unique things are the great lakes—lakes Baringo and Bogoria. They are not just lakes in the great valley, they are unique in their own ways, making them a pivotal point for a variety of activities in Baringo County and beyond.