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TRIBES & PEOPLE GROUPS

MAASAI

Who are they?
The Maasai, famous as herders and warriors, once dominated the plains of East Africa. Now however they are confined to a fraction of their former range.

How do they live?
For the Maasai, cattle are what make the good life, and milk and meat are the best foods. Their old ideal was to live by their cattle alone – other foods they could get by exchange – but today they also need to grow crops. They move their herds from one place to another, so that the grass has a chance to grow again; traditionally, this is made possible by a communal land tenure system in which everyone in an area shares access to water and pasture. Nowadays Maasai have increasingly been forced to settle, and many take jobs in towns. Maasai society is organised into male age-groups whose members together pass through initiations to become warriors, and then elders. They have no chiefs, although each section has a Laibon, or spiritual leader, at its head. Maasai worship one god who dwells in all things, but may manifest himself as either kindly or destructive. Many Maasai today, however, belong to various Christian churches.

What problems do they face?
Since the colonial period, most of what used to be Maasai land has been taken over, for private farms and ranches, for government projects or for wildlife parks. Mostly they retain only the dryest and least fertile areas. The stress this causes to their herds has often been aggravated by attempts made by governments to 'develop' the Maasai. These are based on the idea that they keep too much cattle for the land. However, they are in fact very efficient livestock producers and rarely have more animals than they need or the land can carry. These 'development' efforts try to change their system of shared access to land. While this has suited outsiders and some entrepreneurial Maasai who have been able to acquire land for themselves or sell it off, it has often denuded the soil and brought poverty to the majority of Maasai, who are left with too little and only the worst land.

Information kindly provided by Survival International


Recommended Book
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior
An Autobiography - It gives the picture of a boy growing up as a real Maasai and the new life in civilized world of Germany and USA - a man between two cultures and the difficult question to decide which way to go along. Makes yourself wondering about the way we Western people are living and gives a chance to see our world with other eyers.
Buy From
(amazon.com) - USA    (amazon.co.uk) - UK

Other websites

Survival International
Since 1993 Survival has assisted several Maasai groups in their struggle for their land. In Kenya we found funds for a programme of consciousness-raising against land sales, and supported the people of Iloodoariak and Mosiro, who are resisting the theft of their land through a legal fraud. In Tanzania, we have backed the demand of the Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a proper say in its administration, and supported attempts to defend the sacred hill Endoinyo Ormoruwak ('hill of elders').
Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition
advocates for the protection of traditional land rights of the Maasai people, and for conservation, management and sustainable use of the great ecosystems of East Africa.

The Maasai (Maa) Language
a brief description of the Maa language. This language is spoken by some 500,000 Maasai, Samburu, Camus in Kenya, and about another 500,000 people in Tanzania.

Maasai Girls Education Fund
created in 2000 to improve the lives of Maasai women in Kenya by increasing literacy.


 
 
   
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