The Maasai Crisis: Five core challenges implicating the future of indigenous people in East Africa

Written By Mokia Naputu

The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. Their number seems to range between 2 to 2.3 million, though there are no official statistical reports to confirm the numbers. Popular tourists’ destinations in East Africa such as the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro, Maasai Mara, Amboseli, and Tarangire game reserves are located inside the Maasai region. The reserves are now considered protected areas set aside by governments for conservation, wildlife viewing, and tourism. Maasai people are prohibited from accessing water sources and pasture land in game reserves.

Maasai and their traditional life cycle

Traditionally, Maasai lived under a communal land management system which offered equal access to all members of the community with rules of using and conserving the natural resources for consideration of others and the future. With this aim, the movement of livestock is based on seasonal rotation to avoid lasting concentration in a single area that can alter land productivity and breed harmful pests. The warriors, called Morans, protect land invasion from outsiders if the outsiders are promoting individualism in usage of land resources or restricting the land from cattle access.

Maasai warriors exercising traditional dancing