About the Maasai
Today there are about 1 Million Maasai living in Kenya and, partly, in Tanzania.
The Maasai are traditionally pastoralists and used to have a nomadic or at least semi-nomadic lifestyle.
Their cattle are not seen as economic products or goods to sell at the market. Instead, they are the means of subsistence that make survival possible.
The Maasai’s nutrition is based on the meat, milk and blood of their cattle, goats, and sheep.
However, in recent years, the Maasai became increasingly dependent on food produced by others and food aid (in times of drought).
As of today, the future of the Maasai remains uncertain. They have already began moving away from their traditional pastoralist lifestyle and now they will need to find new sources of income in the long run.
The Olasiti village
The Maasai-village "Olasiti" is located in Kenya, approximately 250km south of Nairobi, near the Tanzanian border and the famous Amboseli National Park. The village was founded 21 years ago. Today, a total of 520 people live in the village (146 of them being children).
Unlike many other Maasai-villages in the area, the village built its own school in 2007,
which currently has
126 children enrolled
(including 56 children
from surrounding villages).
The school includes a
nursery, as well as 1st,
2nd and 3rd grade.
The village also has its own water pump, which is supplied by water from the Kilimanjaro glaciers.
The Maasai, drought and climate Change
The semi-arid and arid lands where the Maasai and other pastoralists live cover 88% of Kenya’s territory.
Within these areas pastoralism accounts for 90% of employment and 95% of family incomes. Therefore, changes in rainfall and increasing droughts have a severe effect on people.
Droughts are now occurring at a higher frequency than in the past, which means that there is less time for pastoralist communities to recover from each drought.
The Olasiti village experienced a 5-month drought between August and December 2015. During this time, cows starved to death and people went without food for multiple consecutive days.
It would have taken the village more than one year to recover from the 2015 drought. But they weren’t given that time. Only three months later, a new drought occurred, in March 2016. Since then, the people of Olasiti didn't have any proper rainfall, only small showers. This makes recovery harder, if not impossible. And the next fully-fledged drought is already on its way.
Many Kenyan Maasai and other pastoralist communities in Kenya, as well as Tanzania, get their water from the Kilimanjaro glacier. So do the people of Olasiti.
The rapid melting of the Kilimanjaro glaciers, due to climate change, is frightening. Researchers expect the glaciers to fully disappear by 2020. This will take the main water source from the village of Olasiti.
“Once the glacier disappears we will depend on the nearby hotels and swamps for water. In case they dry up probably we have to migrate to areas with boreholes. It will be bad and frightening” (Benson, Son of the Chief)