In such an arid place as the Kaisut Desert, camels are of paramount importance, although the Ariaal, who live on the more humid slopes of the mountains to the south, are primarily cattle herders and have more in common with the Samburu than the Rendille. As camels are most valuable for their milk, meat is provided by herds of sheep and goats, tended by children and unmarried women.
For most Rendille, though, the camel remains their most important possession, for its survival ensures the survival of the people. It is so important that even the days of the week and seasons of the year are named after various aspects of caring for camels. They draw from it all that is needed for life: milk, blood, skin, bones for tools, transport, and meat on the rare occasions that a camel is slaughtered for sacrifice, or becomes lame. Small herds of milk camels are kept near the temporary settlements for family use, and are herded and milked by women. Castrated male camels are used to carry water from wells to the settlements, but the demanding and arduous business of feeding and watering the main herd is the responsibility of young men and older boys, whose double function as warriors make them most able to defend them. The constant search for forage and water covers vast distances, sometimes to lands bordered by hostile Borana and Somali. Any loss is severe, not only because of their multiple uses, but because camels breed at a much slower rate than cattle: their gestation period is thirteen months compared to nine for cattle, and a female first calves at the age of six as against two and a half.