90% of their animals died in a drought. Climate change is real and we need to help these people before disaster strikes again.
It’s difficult for us to imagine how it must feel to see your family and friends hungry, thirsty and dying. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to see one after one of your precious animal’s die of thirst. But after being thrown into a drought of unprecedented severity this is exactly what Dalmas and many of his Maasai community had to endure.
Having practised his traditional rites as a Maasai young man, Dalmas went to a local rural primary school and then continued on to Moi University to complete Bachelors and Masters Degrees.
He then worked at a public university for seven years but it wasn’t long before he felt a loss of identity and a deep longing for his old home and life.
He recounts: ‘I love my culture, I love livestock, especially cattle and sheep and I felt the only life for me was to go back to the village and be a herder. This is a life of peace and fulfilment.’
The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. The Maasai occupy a total land area of 160,000 square kilometres with an estimated population of 841,622 people. Dalmas is from the Kajiado County in Kenya.
The Maasai, are pastoralists which mean they graze animals for both income and food. Their grasslands have long supported a semi-nomadic lifestyle that provides a healthy diet of meat, milk, herbal soup, some honey and occasionally fresh blood – the perfect ‘primal diet,’ This nutrient dense high protein diet has produced some of the world’s finest human physical specimens.
Maasai people are renowned for being very tall and muscular, practically disease free and definitely win the prize for biggest warm smile full of perfect pearly teeth!
The traditional Maasai sense of community is incredibly strong, is well organised and functions effectively. The women are responsible for the homes – simple ‘kraals’ of mud, sticks, grass and dung arranged in a circle surrounded by protective thorns – collecting water and milking livestock.
The men offer protection and security as warriors or wisdom and organisational structure as elders. Boys are traditionally responsible for herding the cattle, sheep and goats with the help of the warriors when droughts of trouble take them further afield or if families decide to send the boys to school.
Dalmas says: ‘The leader of each age set is selected by elders who scrutinise family background and genealogy to see whether the potential candidates’ families are people who love peace and justice and show qualities of braveness.’
So Dalmas started a plan to leave his employment and return to be a Maasai herder and raise grass-fed beef cattle in the traditional pastoral system. He took a bank loan and managed to accumulate enough money to build a herd of 127 cows, he resigned from his job and returned to his Maasai community.
Dalmas remembers: ‘The community was so happy and our elders really loved that, after getting a University degree I was coming home and investing in our village. I become a role model for our young people and was highly respected for understanding what is really important in life; community, good health and a sense of identity.’
But after several dry years the ultimate disaster struck, the drought became so severe that everything changed. The watering holes, rivers and wells dried up and the animals – the main source of nutrition for the Maasai – started to die. Eventually, 90% of all the livestock belonging to the community died; Dalmas was left with only 14 cows.
Dalmas remembers: ‘my community were reduced to beggars who depended on food relief to survive, this food was poor quality and a very different from what we were used to so made us sick. I saw children die of malnutrition and lack of water and old people dying of starvation.’
‘People started coming to me for help, I had a little money so helped buy food, but the food was being sold expensively by exploitative business people who hoarded it in order to raise demand to increase their profits.’
Even though Dalmas lost his livestock along with it his dream, he has vowed to help his people protect themselves from future droughts that a changing climate will inevitably strike.
We are working with Dalmas and his community to bring about a liberated, independent and prosperous Maasai society. One of the core resilience measures we are working on is the use of ‘holistic planned grazing’ which has been shown to regenerate grasslands that are turning into desert.
Watch this short video below. Holistic planned grazing makes grasslands more resilient to drought and flooding.
As a professional educator in holistic management I am working with Dalmas and his community to help them transition and develop a regenerative form of pastoralism that will help them reverse the desertification of their grasslands and allow them to stay on their land.
Dalmas has given up his job to help implement this project and he needs OUR help. He has mobilised the community who are willing to adopt a different grazing strategy and we hope to see a slow shift towards an improved water cycle.
In the short term there are areas of land that have become so desertified they need urgent remedial action. To do this we need a small herd of cattle and to employ two herdsmen to atend to them day and night. When land becomes capped, dry and hard the best way to prepare the soil so that the water will soak in, is to pen a small herd of cattle known as a kraal over the hard land for several nights running.
The herders graze their cattle during the day and then return the cows to the kraal to trample, dung and urinate in the small area. This ‘preparation’ is ideal for when the rains arrive and the cocktail of seed, nutrients and softened soil allows this piece of land to burst into life. The kraal we be moved every few days to provide ‘tratment’ to a new hardened piece of desertifying grassland.
Not only will regenerating the grasslands of Kenya and help provide food and water security for the Maasia, but the carbon captured in the process of building soil and biodiversity will reduce the atmospheric Greenhouse load for the rest of the world. Allowing communities to stay on their land keeps the preasure of global food production and helps to prevent more people becoming climate migrants.
As farmers and consumers, we all have a part to play in the climate change that is destroying the lives of these people and will eventually destroy our lives too if we don’t act soon.
So we need YOUR help.
We want to employ two herders who will implement the project with Dalmas by their side. Would you be willing to make a small donation to help us? Huge Thanks Caroline