Spotlight Amboseli: help needed as the Maasai community turns a vital corner
With the fast changing world, the Maasai of Amboseli are at a cross road - to adopt the changes and survive or ignore them and perish.
The Maasai communities were traditionally nomadic pastoralists, relying entirely on their cattle sheep and goats for all their requirements, they moved between the best areas for grazing and there was plenty of land for everyone including wildlife.
They did not hunt wildlife but learned to live with it except the occasional conflict either in defense of their property or to provide for the famed Maasai warriors - who were few then - who would show off to their peers friends by taking part in lion hunts with their six foot long spears.
Come the 1980s, 90s and beyond 2000, human and livestock population increased and new land uses like agriculture was introduced.
Wildlife found itself fast losing its habitat especially in the backdrop of the accelerated land subdivision in the greater Amboseli Ecosystem.
This has resulted in land degradation, habitat deterioration, poor quality livestock that easily succumb to drought and diseases, and culminating into an increasingly impoverished Maasai community, who have to now to depend on the Government and donors for support during drought.
This is a departure from the past.
No Amboseli group ranch has been spared this.
Located in Kajiado South District with an acreage of 147,779 hectares and a population of 11,475 registered members, Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) community is IFAW’s main focus of intervention.
OOGR is the heartbeat of the 5,700km2 Amboseli ecosystem based on the boundaries of six group ranches. Apart from the fact that Amboseli National park was carved from it some 40 years ago, it currently engulfs the Park by 90%.
This means it forms the immediate dispersal grounds for wildlife living within the Park and is vital for the survival of both the Park and wildlife as it allows the protected area to recover during the rains. More like creating food reserves.
Recognising this fact, the community of Olgulului-Ololarashi has developed a conservation and development plan that zones the land use and provides for wildlife corridors and wildlife conservancies.
This is so as to tap wildlife-based economic activities as an alternative source of income.
Besides the development plan, OOGR has established a wildlife protection unit to address escalating human-wildlife conflict cases while providing security to wildlife, community members and visitors to their lands.
This shows that the Maasai community recognised and accepted wildlife as part and parcel of their heritage and are preparing themselves to protect it and, in return, generate income from tourism-based activities.
As the Maasai community moves towards this direction, training needs for community game scouts became essential in bringing a new horizon and aspirations for better management and security of natural resources at the community level.
They have recognised wildlife as a natural resource that, when nurtured well, can add value to their socio-economic well being.
It is in this recognition that Maasai elders who attended a meeting at the Amboseli Park Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in July stated that,
“During droughts our people starve, we must make use of this resource given to us by God, but we need to be shown how to do it. Maasai communities are not traders by nature. They are cattle people and know nothing of tourist and tourism, but we are willing to learn the skills required so that we can earn money from tourism.”
This is borne out of the fact that while farming and livestock rearing requires lots of human input, wildlife just needs space and security to thrive.
Having decided to embrace the change and accepted to take care of elephants as they do their own livestock, the OOGR community is now asking the world for help train and equip the community scouts with knowledge and power necessary for them to manage this world heritage on behalf of the rest of the world.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is keen to provide this support but cannot do it without your help.
For more information about our Amboseli Elephant Project, visit our project page.