Monday, September 14, 2009

Climate change threatens life and health of Kenya’s Maasai women

Ebby Nanzala Wamatsi in Women News Network: The Maasai are struggling with frequent water shortages which are threatening their way of life. But one women’s group is taking action. Day in and day out from the months of March through to June, grey and white clouds float across the blue skies above Kajiado, southern Kenya. But each passing day, the rain they promise frequently fails to show up.

…The lack of rain has had serious implications for the environmental region as both people and animals are suffering. The Maasai people have to share the land with all kinds of wildlife here. And when water is short in supply, incidents of conflict arise.

The Maasai have lived and coped here for centuries, but the new weather patterns are threatening their way of life. In recent decades, seasonal patterns have become unpredictable and rainfall levels have become lower.

As traditional cattle herders, the Maasai have found themselves leaving their homes for months at a time in search of pastures and water for their animals. In most cases this means vulnerable women, children and the elderly are left behind to fend for themselves in the villages.

Maasai herders dressed in their bright red shuka cloaks, have now become a common feature on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi, as they search for pastures. Others are dropping out of their pastoral lifestyle altogether and moving to the cities in search of employment….

Maasai girls in 1979, shot by John Atherton, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License.