This East African tribe started recycling centuries ago, they turn junk into treasure


The Daasanach tribe are a distinct group of people spread across Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. They are also known as the  Marille or Galibe people. Several spelling variations exist of the word Daasanach and they include Dasenach or Dassanech. The name is derived from the native language, Daasanach.

A unique practice that distinguishes the Daasanach people apart from the many ethnic tribes in Africa is the recycling practices that have been a part of them for as long as can be remembered. They are known to be very neat people who do not put anything to waste but rather find various ways they can be reused. A typical example will be how they make good use of animal skin that is dried to make bags that store their money or other valuable items.

On the creative side, the Daasanach people have made a good name for themselves through the skill of making jewellery out of junk. These jewellery pieces are worn to add more colour to their personal life.

Using junk such as broken bottles, used sim cards, old watches, syringe caps and old clothes, they make magic and turn trash into gold coming out with earrings, hats, necklaces and broaches. The fashion statement pieces are worn by both men and women and sometimes sold to neighbouring settlements to make good money.

-photo- wildimages

The practice has become a great pass time gaining them a lot of popularity especially in Ethiopia. Their craft has advanced to beautiful bead works which are mostly sold during the period of celebrations such as weddings, outdooring of a child or harvesting of crops.

The Daasanach people obtain these junk items during the market days and leisure walks and are said to be setting a good example for Africa giving ideas of how Africa can solve their recycling problems.

Daasanach girl in handmade headwear
-photo-cater news agency

Originating from a pastoral background, the Daasanach people have slowly transformed into an agropastoral people growing crops and rearing animals in order to survive. Since early records of their existence, they are known to be in close contact with civilization but prefer the “simple” way of life which dates back to the ancient African system of living in East Africa.

The Daasanach trace their ancestral origins to the early Nilotic people who gradually parted ways forming two distinct groups. Daasanch traces back to the group that came into contact with the Cushite speaking people adapting the Afro-Asiatic languages.

As farmers, the Daasanach grow pumpkins, Sorghum, maize and beans which they largely eat and trade to make little money. They also survive on goat and cattle milk, drying the meat and preserving them for the dry seasons. They are also very popular for their local beer made out of fermented Sorghum.

Daasanach girl in handmade headwear
-photo-cater news agency

The Daasanach are known to migrate a lot especially during the dry seasons and rely on donkeys and cattle to carry their load while they walk long distances and settling closer to the shores for access to water. When they settle, they build simple dome-shaped huts made mostly out of mud. They sleep on mats and make fireplaces to keep them warm at night and also help with seeing in the dark. They use animal fat for their skin and hair.

The rich class of the Daasanach people are successful farmers that make good money off their trades and also have a good number of Cattle. Such men are highly respected and are able to marry as many women as they please as long as they promote peace among their wives and look after their children.

Many times a year, they receive visitors from all over the world who come to watch the people make their jewellery and display them.

Visiting Ethiopia, Kenya or Sudan anytime soon? Why not pay the Daasanach people a visit to have a feel of ancient African style of living and watch them turn nothing into something.


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