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Worse Drought Hit Maasai Land

Cattle are dying and the people are faced with severe food shortage

A severe drought across Kajiado Central District, southeastern Kenya, has left Maasai families and their cattle at their worse state ever. Kids are dropping out of schools while parents are struggling to nurse their young ones at home. The cattle are malnourished and people are without food. The region has not received adequate rains for four consecutive years.

The Maasai people of Kajiado Central District have been receiving relief food from the World Food Program but with the ongoing political situation in Kenya, flared by the recent constitutional referendum, the food has been late in arriving. "The situation in Kajiado Central district is serious and one that might claim several lives," said Kajiado Central MP, Major General (Rtd) Joseph Nkaisserry during the interview conducted by East African Standard.

The Maasai are traditionally nomadic and pastoral people who depend on milk and meat for subsistence. Stocking of Maasai food staples is difficult, as refrigeration is unheard of. In fact, most Maasai have never even seen a refrigerator. This makes it difficult for them to store food for later use.

The areas hardest-hit by drought and food shortage in Kajiado Central District are in the vicinity of Amboseli National Park, which last year generated approximately 240 million Kenyan Shillings (estimated $3.5 million US). In addition, the Kilimanjaro Water Project cuts through the communities mentioned herein but the villagers are barred from using the water for irrigation or for livestock. “Should the water from the Kilimanjaro Water Project and the revenue from the Amboseli National Park be shared with the local communities, food shortage in Kajiado District would have been prevented,” said a local chief who asked not to be identified.

The Maasai of Kajiado Central District are not only combating a bad drought, they are also faced with great pressure from Game Wardens stationed in lower Chulu Hills, an area that once belonged to the Maasai of Kajiado Central District. The Chulu Hills area used to be a secondary grazing zone for the Maasai, and was left fallow so the vegetation could rejuvenate. The Maasai people moved to the Chulu Hills area when the drought became severe such as is occurring under present conditions. In 1995 the Maasai lost the area to the Kenya Wildlife Service. Lower Chulu Hills is the only place that has received rains this year. Most Maasais from Kajiado Central District moved to Chulu Hills early November 2005 where they encountered strict Game Wardens who drove them off the land.

The wardens are now arresting Maasai warriors on a daily basis leaving cattle behind unattended. “Many cows have been lost to drought and to predators, mainly lions and hyenas”, said Samuel Ole Ntauti who lost five cows to predators. Two of Ntauti’s herdsmen (warriors) have been taken to Kibwezi police station where they have been beaten and charged huge fines for grazing cattle in the Chulu Hills.

“Beatings from the game wardens are our greatest nemesis, much worse than drought” said Henry Ole Kutata, Merrueshi village elder who stayed in Kibwezi cell for four days before his family learned about his arrest. Mr. Kutata, like many other herders, lost twelve cows to hyenas the day he was taken into custody.

Hot temperatures are on the rise in the region and there are still no signs of rain.

Food aid distribution programs should be continued in Kajiado Central District, the hardest-hit marginal agricultural area, as the food situation is anticipated to remain severe until the next rainy season in April.

Furthermore, the Maasai of Kajiado Central District are hoping that the Kenyan government will urge the Game Wardens to leave the herders alone at least during this time of severe drought.

The hardest-hit areas in Kajiado Central District include: Merrueshi, Mashuru, Poka, Torosei, Nga’tataek, Ilbissil, Isara, Imbuko, Noosidan, and Ilkelunyeti.

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Additional information for this article was provided by villagers of Kajiado Central District and The East African Standard.



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Graphic design, data architecture, technical implementation by Ole Maimai,


"The region has not received adequate rains for four consecutive years. "This is the worse drought ever" said a Maasai elder.

Donkeys are used to deliver food and water to families located several miles away from primary settlement.

Hot temperatures are on the rise in the region and there are still no signs of rain. It is dry, dusty, and extremely hot; wildlife, people and their livestock are equally struggling. Drought condition is almost unbearable in this semi-arid land of equatorial heat.

Without grass livestock (cattle, goats and sheep) are malnourished, which means less food available for families and their children.

Maasai pastoral community is neglected from sustainable development programs in Kenya. Yet, their traditional practices of subsistence farming, mainly livestock, have become less reliable. It is hoped that development agencies and the local government will assist the Maasai in the effort to find alternative and sustainable income generating activities. Otherwise the Maasai pastoral community is doomed to become a dependant of relief food for a long period of time.