Struggles of the Maasai Tribe


For my 12th grade PDW I went to Tanzania to work on multiple projects in the community. One of these projects included staying with the Maasai tribe and getting a better understanding of their way of life. As a group, we fundraised money, which was then used to buy around 30 mattresses for the Maasai kids, school books and cows. After driving for what felt like 3 hours we met one of the nine chiefs, Ole Kuney, who guided us deep into the north Tanzanian bush and let us in on the life of the Maasai. Currently, there are around 800 000 Maasai members in Tanzania and another approximate 860 000 in Kenya, who occupy a total land area of 160 000 square kilometres. Although this makes them quite a powerful tribe it also exposes them to many threats. The rich land that they own lures in many outsiders such as tourists and large hunting organizations. Ole Kuney informed us about the many Maasai villages that have been burnt to the ground and the thousands of people who have been pushed off their own land by the authorities only for their financial convenience. Due to Tanzania’s and Kenya’s beautiful landscapes and wildlife the government is creating more and more parks and reserves without the consent of the indigenous people who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. The Maasai relies on its land to raise their cattle and has done so sustainably by migrating in order to allow the grass to regenerate.

When we first got to the Maasai village I expected it to be a lot more isolated and traditional than it seemed. For example, I thought that fire would be the most used way to get light, however, there were bright light bulbs outside of the majority of the huts. Something that shocked all of us was that the chief of the Maasai owned a cell phone that was constantly beeping and buzzing. Turns out this is one of the steps the Maasai are taking in order to “modernize” themselves to unite and network with their people all over the country. Since innocent members of the Maasai are being ripped away from their families and put into jail (even the chief himself spent his time in prison all of last year) they need to all stay connected to keep track of the cases and discuss upcoming strategies to fight back. The director of the school that we donated to told us that it was especially important for the younger generation of the Maasai to learn how to read and write so that they can defend themselves in court and have somewhat of a fair chance of sticking up for their case. Although the Maasai tribe isn’t the most remote tribe I still think it’s really important to raise awareness about the issues these people are facing so that their way of life can be preserved. Without being made aware of these problems pretty soon future PDWs may not get the chance to explore their culture.