Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How climate change is transforming Maasai pastoralists’ life

Lucas Liganga in the Citizen Chief (Tanzania): On meeting Ngaiyok Legilisho Kipainoi many of his long-time friends would assume he had been out of his native Mairowa pastoral village for some time and has just returned. He talks more about the doings of modern societies and every time he moves from one homestead to another everybody can tell his way from the trail of dust that follows his motorcycle. 

In reality Kipainoi, 35, is already in a world away from the destitution and social tension that gripped the north-eastern Tanzania rangelands in 2009 in the wake of a devastating drought. The past three years or so have seen the worst socio-economic crisis in the Maasai pastoral communities in recent history.

The drought has immensely cost the nation in lost productivity, but traditional cattle breeders in this area compute its toll on the decimated herds of livestock. Available figures show that Longido District in Arusha Region, suffered a loss of at least 120,000 head of cattle, which was slightly over half of its total herd of 200,000.

The drought’s impact on the people’s lives and their livestock is still visible in many villages of Engarenaibor ward even after recent rains brought back a flush of green on the ground.

But the good news is that, together with the improved weather condition, there is a gradual turnaround of the pastoralists’ way of life. While they boast of owning thousands of cattle, only a few dozen have survived and breeders admit, they have now realised that real wealth is not in big herds. "The days of keeping many heads of cattle for prestige are gone—thanks to the 2009 drought. It has taught us a lesson. A lesson to adapt to climate change,” said Kipainoi....

A Maasai pastoralist in Tanzania, shot by Nicor, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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