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.
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
“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.
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
I will try to keep track of this issue and let you know of future developments.
1 – Groups: Tanzania gov’t kicking Maasai off land
By JASON STRAZIUSO | Associated Press – Fri, Apr 5, 2013
2 – Maasai face eviction from ancestral lands to make way for Dubai hunting firm
Yahoo News, By A correspondent | Christian Science Monitor – Fri, Apr 5, 2013