Tanzania Government Displacing Maasai Off Land

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Henry Miwani – © 2012 Mark Pemberton

One of the great pleasures that Cathy and I had when we visited Kenya in 2012 was our visit with a Maasai Village. Henry Miwani, one of our guides, took us to visit his village. The villagers performed their traditional dances and songs for us and taught us about their traditional way of life. We were then free to wander around, observe and talk to those you spoke English. We got to go into their small huts and learn about how they make their living by herding.

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

For hundreds of years, the Maasai have roamed across Kenya and Tanzania with their herds of cattle and goats. However, more and more land has been set aside for animal preserves, thus reducing the area available to the Maasai. One of the greatest concerns of conservationists is the reduction of habitat for wild animals due to the encroachment of man. Here is an example of the encroachment of man causing a reduction in habitat for man!

In a coup de gras that has raised the ire of the Maasai and conservationists alike “Tanzania announced last week it plans to evict 30,000 Maasai herders from a hefty swath of their ancestral lands in order to create a game reserve offering exclusive access for a Dubai-based hunting company.” 1

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© 2012 Mark Pemberton

“Maasai activists say the proposal, which reduces their space here by 40 percent, will destroy their traditional cattle-herding livelihood. …The government says the corridor is a necessity for conservation in the northern Loliondo region bordering the Serengeti, and charges that Maasai cattle are overgrazing the land.” 1

Reports from the Christian Science Monitor confirmed the information reported by AP.

“Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki said last week the government will not budge from its plans, described as a compromise that would divide current Maasai territory by giving about 40 percent for a wildlife zone and the rest to the Maasai for grazing.

“There is no government in the world that can just let an area so important to conservation to be wasted away by overgrazing,” Mr. Kagasheki said.

Benjamin Gardner, a cultural geographer at the University of Washington who has studied the Maasai since 1992, says he doubts they are harming the environment. “The way the Maasai manage the range actually encourages wildlife,” Mr. Gardner says, citing their aversion to hunting, and prescribed burns that regenerate grass.

But Tanzania is also in need of foreign investment. Livestock rearing, although economically productive for people in Loliondo, is less lucrative for the government than tourism. The OBC hunting firm’s clients include the United Arab Emirates royal family, and pay so well that in the past,  Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete has dispatched troops to keep the hunting grounds free of cattle and locals.” 2

The question is, who will be the better steward for the land, the Maasai or the Ortello Business Corporation? There is little question in my mind.

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Maasai Village – © 2012 Cathy Pemberton

It is very discouraging that in the 21st century, trophy hunting is still occurring. But it is. There are private game preserves throughout Central Africa that cater to private game hunters.  These preserves are highly profitable for the countries in which they reside.

According to the Christian Science Monitor a mass protest rally by the Maasai was planned for this week. In support, about 50 politicians threatened to resign their jobs. Ultimately the politicians reneged on their promises (can you believe that?) and the local police outlawed public gatherings. Soldiers were sent in to disperse the demonstrators.

“Maasai women, dressed in traditional red shukas with shining jewelry, are now resisting on their own. Defying both the ban on gatherings and the patriarchal Maasai culture, by midweek they began holding small sit-ins under wiry acacia trees in villages across Loliondo, where they debated whether they should go to court or march on OBC’s camp.” 2

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Maasai Women – © 2012 Mark Pemberton

I will try to keep track of this issue and let you know of future developments.

Mark

1Groups: Tanzania gov’t kicking Maasai off land
By JASON STRAZIUSO | Associated Press – Fri, Apr 5, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/groups-tanzania-govt-kicking-maasai-off-land-134348511.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

2Maasai face eviction from ancestral lands to make way for Dubai hunting firm
Yahoo News, By A correspondent | Christian Science Monitor – Fri, Apr 5, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/maasai-face-eviction-ancestral-lands-way-dubai-hunting-160806860.html

One World Project

Welcome to our new blog. For some time now Cathy and I have been changing the focus of our photography. Our trips around the world have made us more aware of the changes that are happening to our planet. It is disappointing that everywhere we go we can see the negative consequences to our environment, wildlife and habitats brought about by man. However, we are still inspired about the great beauty that we see everyday and hopeful that things can improve. As a result, we have created what we call our “One World Project” whereby we will use our photography as a medium to document the inter-related nature of climate change, loss of habitat, poaching, etc. We have just One World, and we are the stewards of it.

There are many sources of information about doom and gloom scenarios of environmental destruction. Unfortunately, the consequence of such unrelenting bad news is that people become discouraged and “tune it out”. The subtitle of our One World Project is to “Inform and Inspire”. We hope to Inform by bringing the news from the environmental front in an easy to understand manner. But we also hope to Inspire people to see the beauty and magnificence that exists and to contribute to the causes of conservation and preservation.

Lion eating cape buffalo kill

Two lions devouring the carcass of a Cape Buffalo on the Masai Mara.

I would like to initiate this blog with a wonderful story that made the news a month ago. It is the story of a 13 year old Maasai boy, Richard Turere,  from Kenya. Despite his young age, Richard had the job of protecting his family’s herd of cattle. However, the many prides of lions in the area inevitably killed many of his herd. Richard hated lions as a result. In situations like this, many cattle owners will kill lions that they come across to protect their herd. In some cases entire prides have been killed or poisoned. It is a classic example of man’s encroachment into the territory of wild animals and the wild animal suffering the consequences of this loss of habitat.

Richard, however, was a smart young fellow. One evening when he was patrolling the area with a flashlight “I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.” This got him thinking and over the course of a few weeks he rigged up a series of flashing LEDs onto the poles of the cattle enclosure. The lights were connected to a switch box, car battery and a solar panel and were designed to flicker on and off in a way that simulated a person walking with a flashlight.

And it worked. Since Richard rigged up his “Lion Lights,” his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts. It is a small victory but an important one. Today there are about 2000 lions in Kenya, down from 15,000 only 10 years ago. We need many more people like Richard Turere to help preserve our wildlife.

To read the entire article about Richard’s invention click here.

Personal Experience

During our visit to Kenya in January of 2012 Cathy and I had a chance to briefly visit with the Maasai and learn a bit about their way of life. The village that we visited was filled with wonderful, open people. They raised primarily goats and some cattle. They were clearly good stewards of the land but had to worry about the constant presence of predators.

The following are a few of the photos that we took during our visit with the Maasai.

Maasai Village

Maasai woman with child and the family’s prized livestock.

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Cathy demonstrates the wonder of digital photography to Maasai children.