Cattle Camp in South Sudan
And there is a Cattle Camp in South Sudan. An enigmatic, very isolated place….there are no marked or paved roads to travel, only bush. A place where people are living in their tiny temporary houses built by a grass surrender with their cattle’s. The camp may have anywhere between 1-2 families or up to hundred families.
Truly amazing scene among the semi-pastoralists people.
There is a characteristic smell at this place –the smell of a white smoke from a fire rising into the air, feeling the strong wind which plays with the dust above the cows. Sometimes you need to close your eyes to keep the powder from the burned dung away and the heat is suffocating at times of dry season.
An abundant place with cattle.
At the same time you feel a sense of calm and harmony.
Cattle are the heart / attributes of people’s life.
The number of the cattle a man owns measured his wealth and status among the community. As one of the local officials describes cattle as a “shop” and he adds “ we love the cows, if you don’t have cows you die”. You can see a significant connection between a man and his cows-it’s part of his identity. They are very proud of their cows.
Cattle provide milk for food, also they are used like money to pay compensation, women to get married with and also settle disputes.
Cattle shapes their daily routine. Every morning after milking the cows, they are taken to the graze by men in unison where elders and women stay in the camp looking after children and preparing food.
When cows leave the camp, young boys are spreading the cow dung by hand to be dried during the day and little before cows return, they collecting it to be put in a pile to burn. This protects the cows from the insects as well themselves by using the ashes from dung to rub their faces and skin.
People are very friendly, gentle and eager to learn. They welcome you with warm smiles and hand shakes. They have dignity and pride and sense of the life they are living, even though the camps are rough settlements. This place is very remote, without cars or farm machines, without access to health care, safe drinking water or schools.