Extreme seasonality of births among nomadic Turkana pastoralists

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1989 May;79(1):103-15. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330790111.


Births to nomadic Turkana women in northwest Kenya follow one of the most highly seasonal distributions ever reported for a human population, with more than half of all births falling between March and June. Important aspects of the Turkana environment also fluctuate greatly over the course of the year. The rate of conception is apparently highest during the early dry season, when the food supply has been at its best for some time, and when women are attaining their peak nutritional status. The seasonal dynamics of Turkana fertility seem to be driven, ultimately, by fluctuations in rainfall; Fourier analysis indicates that changes in numbers of conceptions follow changes in rainfall with a lag of 3.6 months. The specific biological and behavioral changes in the human population through which the environmental changes may affect fertility are considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Rate
  • Coitus
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Lactation
  • Male
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Pregnancy
  • Seasons
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Temperature
  • Weaning