What Do People in the Desert Eat?

Jan Smith/CC-BY 2.0

Most desert peoples favor low-protein cereal grains, high-protein seeds, local varieties of vegetation, and teas and coffee. The diet of desert cultures can differ wildly depending on the geography and biodiversity of the area.

Diets with very high levels of protein are not desirable in desert environments. The nomadic peoples of the Sahara carry bags of rice and dates on camels’ backs while they herd sheep, which are occasionally eaten. Native American tribes of the Mojave Desert were primarily farmers and gatherers who sometimes hunted small game. The San bushmen of the Kalahari, however, are a hunter-gatherer people who have survived for 20,000 years by primarily hunting wild game and gathering nuts and berries. Drinking water is not readily available to the San, so they survive off the moisture stored in plant roots and melons.