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THE MAASAI


Contents Where do they live?

Their traditions

History of the Maasai

Their problems

Solutions

The future of the Maasai


Where do they live? The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on arid lands. The Maasai occupy a total land area of 160,000 square kilometres with a population of approximately 1,500,000 people.

They live here


Their traditions Pastoralism Traditions Pastoralism is their way of life. They have a system of their own which prevents environmental degradation. Traditionally, their god Enkai created the Maasai and the cow became a sacred animal. The Maasai measure the wealth of a man according to the number of cows he owns: a man who does not have any, is regarded as poor. Traditional Maasai life is organized around their cattle, which is their main food source: they mostly use dairy products. They don't often eat meat which is reserved for special rituals. They drink blood from young cattle in times of drought and also for rituals.


Social organisation The Maasai society is patriarchal and more or less gerontocratic, the elders take decisions for all the group. The spiritual leader (« oloiboni »), is the link between the Maasai and their god «Enkai ». He is the guardian of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants and astrology. He can practise divination and magic. The Maasai are divided into clans and into age-sets: child, junior warrior, senior warrior, junior elder, and senior elder. The journey from one age-set to another is accompanied by initiation rites.


Everyday life

The Maasai build small circular temporary houses using interlaced branches, covered with cow dung and mud. All houses have: a room to chat, a room for animals, the main room where there's a fire for cooking and sleeping mats (cow hide), placed on a wooden frame. There is no furniture. A group of homes in a circle, surrounded by a fence made of thorny branches, form a “Enkang� (or Kraal). The herds are grouped in the centre of the circle at night to protect them from predators. The women have many roles : they build the houses, prepare meals, make clothes... they walk a lot to fetch water and wood. The men look after the safety of the camp and tend livestock. They also attend meetings to discuss matters, settle problems and to take care of the initiation of young men.


History of the Maasai A large part of Maasailand was conquered by British colonists in the late 19th century. The Maasai were the victims of colonization. In 1904, they signed a treaty with the British settlers who eventually manipulated them. The Maasai were then expelled from their land. A large area was transformed into national parks and reserves such as Amboseli and Maasai Mara. The British controlled 80% of the land and distributed it very unequally (despite a request to retrieve it); the rich had much, the poor had almost nothing. This historic injustice caused the problems that now threaten the life of the Maasa誰.


Their problems A) Land

After independence, the Maasa誰land was divided into group ranches. Henceforth, families were forced to group together. In the late 1970s the group ranches were dissolved and the land was privatized. This opened the door for land selling and the Maasa誰 were dispossessed by outsiders. Big European, American and Asian agri-business corporations are still buying the land and use it for their flower farms, poultry farms...which export to Europe and the USA. The environment is polluted by chemicals, the Kenyan ecosystem is disturbed and destroyed.


B) Tourism

The best National Parks in East Africa are in Maasailand. A land where the Maasai used to graze their animals during the dry seasons. Now they cannot graze on these lands. Even during the hard times of droughts. The Maasai have been forced to change lifestyle to accommodate tourists: they have been driven off their land. Hotels, lodges have been built and sanctuaries or conservation areas created. That has been disturbing the wildlife (60 per cent of wildlife are co-existing within Maasa誰land) On top of all this, the Maasai get very little money from the profits generated by tourism.


C) Droughts and climate change The ground water is getting very low because of multinational companies which need water to grow their flowers or other products. Droughts are now more frequent than ever in areas of Kenya. The Maasai are losing their animals due to droughts and are now relying on Food Aid. These changes of the climate are man made, not natural.


But there are solutions : •  Real Ecotourism which respects The Maasaï and the

environment. • N.G.Os : e.j. : Neighbour Initiative Alliance (NIA) • make people aware of the situation : talk about it to your friends and family. • Donate money or give some time or energy to associations such as Breizh Solidarité Maasaï (BSM) which helps drilling boreholes and buying cattle. Buy cards, posters and jewels made by the women. • Organize fund raising at your office, school... • Limit safaris ? • Don't buy products from this region : flowers, beans, peas... • To help a family: give a cow or a goat.


The future of the Maasai The governments of Kenya and Tanzania are involved in a drive to limit the nomadic lifestyles of indigenous people in a move to develop more land for

agriculture.

Although

touched by westernization, the Maasai are willing to keep their traditional way of life.


We need action now !


This slide show was created in June 2012 thanks to slides made by the following students:

Simon, Adrien , Théo, Marcus, Sandra, Anaëlle, Dylan and Marie (202) Simon, Marion, Agathe, Baptiste, Pierre, Kevin, Marie, Benoît, Chloé, Alice, Juliette and Margaux (209-210) Marc, Julien, Anaïs, Gauthier, Céline, Damien, Nolwenn, Manon, and Marie (212) Mrs Le Pissart

It was then read and amended by Kenny Matampash, spokesman of the Maasaï, founder and executive director of NIA on his visit to France and the BSM team on 1st December 2012.

Unesco-Maasaï- Le Likès  

Our students have worked with and for an NGO supporting a Maasai village in Kenya ...

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