Maasai History

Feb 13


The Maasai are an indigenous African ethnic group of semi-nomadic people. Due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well-known of African ethnic groups. They have a reputation as fierce warriors.

The tribe lives in Kenya and Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. They occupy a land area of 160,000 square kilometers with a population of approximately half a million people. They have largely managed to stay outside the mainstream of development, Although modern development is encroaching to Maasai lifestyles.

Livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep are the primary source of income for the Maasai. Livestock serves as a social utility and plays an important role in the Maasai economy. Livestock are traded for other livestock, cash or livestock products such as milk and siege. Individuals, families, and clans establish close ties through the provision or exchange of cattle.

The Maasai used to live under a communal land management system. The movement of livestock being based on seasonal rotation. This communal land management system allowed them to utilize resources in a sustainable manner. Each section managed its own territory. Under normal conditions, reserve pastures were fallowed and guarded by the warriors. However, if the dry season became especially harsh, section boundaries were ignored and people grazed animals throughout the land until the rainy season arrived. According to Maasai traditional land agreement, no one should be denied access to natural resources such as water and land.

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