From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic pastoralist people in Kenya and Tanzania. They speak Maa, a Nilotic language.

Challenges to Maasai People and Culture

Climate Variability

"Climate variability, by affecting ecosystem structure and function, has always influenced African livestock production and rainfed agriculture production. Pastoralists and agropastoralists depend directly and indirectly on the products of their livestock, so they have developed multiple coping mechanisms to deal with drought. These include keeping diverse species of livestock, movements of species-specific and production-specific livestock herds over large areas, emigration out of the pastoral system until the perturbation passes, economic diversity, and even allocating seasonal and drought-induced nutritional stress among those community members better able to cope with it...
"This combination of stabilizing strategies — large spatial scale of exploitation, demand reduction through emigration, economic diversity and specific food and nutritional stress allocation — has become constrained in this century due to 2 major factors: an increasing human population along with a stable or declining livestock population and a decreasing land use area... East African pastoralists, for example, have been unable to expand livestock holdings due to such factors as disease epidemics, recurring droughts, and intertribal raiding. In addition, access to large amounts of land has been lost. Better watered dry season ranges have been lost to both colonial and African agriculturalists, to game parks, and to conservation areas. Pastoralists have taken up agriculture in an effort to meet their increasing food demands at the same time as agropastoralists have expanded cropping into more marginal areas (Sperling & Galaty 1990). Fallow periods have shortened and fallowed areas have decreased...
"Pastoralists and agropastoralists have, in the past, adapted very well to climate variability. However these populations have become vulnerable to climate variability in large part because their strategies for coping with climate variability have become constrained."[1]

Land Use Changes

"It is not surprising that the development of capital-intensive livestock production usually leads to a concentration of benefits in only a few hands. In Kenya, thousands of hectares of Maasai pastures have been skimmed off by corrupt officials and local bigwigs. In some places the entire savanna has been divided among politicians and their friends. Some of the best lands belong to [former] President Moi, the second best to the Vice-President, and the inferior places to their cronies. Overall, 40 percent of the privatized land has been appropriated by non-Maasai and it is used mainly for speculation."[2]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Kathleen A. Galvin, Randall B. Boone, Nicole M. Smith, and Stacy J. Lynn, "Impacts of climate variability on East African pastoralists: linking social science and remote sensing," Climate Research, Vol. 19: 161–172, 2001.
  2. Joseph Ginat and Anatoly M. Khazanov, "Introduction" In Joseph Ginat and Anatoly M. Khazanov, eds, Changing Nomads in a Changing World, Sussex Academic Press, Portland, OR, 1998, p. 15.

External Resources

  • Maasai Associaton
  • Thomas Spear and Richard Waller, Being Maasai: ethnicity and identity in East Africa, 1993.

External Articles

  • Kathleen A. Galvin, "Transitions: Pastoralists Living with Change," Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 38: 185-198 (Volume publication date October 2009), DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164442.
  • Mwangi, M. N.; Desanker, P. V., "Changing Climate, Disrupted Livelihoods: The Case of Vulnerability of Nomadic Maasai Pastoralism to Recurrent Droughts in Kajiado District, Kenya," American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2007, abstract #GC12A-02.
  • Eriksen, S.H., K. Brown, and P.M. Kelly, 2005: The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies in Kenya and Tanzania. Geographical Journal, 171, 287-305.
  • Kathleen A Galvin, Philip K Thornton, Randall B Boone, and Jennifer Sunderland, "Climate variability and impacts on east African livestock herders: the Maasai of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania," African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2004, 21(3): 183–189.
  • Oba, G., 2001: The importance of pastoralists’ indigenous coping strategies for planning drought management in the arid zone of Kenya. Nomadic Peoples, 5(1), 89-119.
  • Kathleen A. Galvin, Randall B. Boone, Nicole M. Smith, and Stacy J. Lynn, "Impacts of climate variability on East African pastoralists: linking social science and remote sensing," Climate Research, Vol. 19: 161–172, 2001.
  • Elliot Fratkin, "Pastoralism: Governance and Development Issues," Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 26, (1997), pp. 235-261.
  • Robert L. Tignor, "The Maasai Warriors: Pattern Maintenance and Violence in Colonial Kenya," The Journal of African History, Vol. 13, No. 2 (1972), pp. 271-290.
  • G. H. Mungeam, "Masai and Kikuyu Responses to the Establishment of British Administration in the East Africa Protectorate," The Journal of African History, Vol. 11, No. 1 (1970), pp. 127-143.
  • William L. Lawren, "Masai and Kikuyu: An Historical Analysis of Culture Transmission," The Journal of African History, Vol. 9, No. 4 (1968), pp. 571-583.