MWDO currently works with women from three Maasai districts of Kiteto, Simanjiro and Monduli in Tanzania. The Maasai women are traditionally marginalised people in-terms of educational rights other opportunities. Women role in the society is only re-productive, children rearing and to undertake household chores. While boys are normally traditionally favored and receive education opportunities while Maasai girls mostly remain home and are uneducated. These leads to a situation where girls are discriminated upon in other areas because they are not empowered enough to know their rights. The Organization was started to give Maasai women a voice and empower them economically, socially and politically.
THE SITUATION IN MAASAILAND IN GENERAL
The members of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania, who are pastoralists, are at a crisis point in their history. They are experiencing pressures from outside forces that are causing them to become poorer and poorer. They are in competition with wildlife, large-scale farmers and business people for their land. Their traditional way of life is being forced to change by these outside forces.
There are approximately 27 million people in Tanzania dispersed over an area of 924,578 sq. km. Eighty-nine percent of the population live in the rural areas as small farmers and pastoralists. It can be estimated that about 4% of the population are pastoralists, which is over one million people.
The Tanzanian Maasai population is approximately 600,000. They live mainly in the North-central part of Tanzania in the Arusha Region. They are the majority of the population in 4 out of the 8 districts of Arusha (Monduli, Kiteto, Simanjiro and Ngorongoro) and Maasailand has a total area of about 63,000 sq.km, which is about 77% of the total area of Arusha Region.
Well endowed with good farmland, cash crops and mines, the Arusha region is the center of many businesses (including tourism, large-scale farming and mining), development projects, churches and donor activities. The region includes some of the major tourist attractions in East Africa, most of which are found in Maasailand and this is an important factor which has direct influence on the government's, businesses, and non-governmental agencies' policies and attitudes toward pastoralists.
The Maasai are considered to be pure pastoralists, depending only on their livestock for subsistence needs, without having to practice agriculture. However, in times of drought, they have used their stock to get grain to supplement their diet. At present, many have begun to cultivate maize for their own consumption since herds have decreased.
The pattern of land use and pasture utilization which is practiced by the Maasai is transhumance, with organized grazing zones which are used rotationally in order to allow land to recover and vegetation to regenerate. This pattern involves daily and seasonal movement of animals. There are dry season and wet season grazing areas.
The Maasai have had a large percentage of their traditional grazing land alienated for different purposes. The National Parks of Serengeti, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire are all in Maasailand. When the Serengeti was made a national park in 1954, the Maasai living there were moved to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In 1974, the Tanzania government banning cultivation in the Conservation Area passed legislation. At this time, the Maasai were also evicted from the Ngorongoro Crater where they had lived for generations.
Large areas of Maasailand have been taken over by large-scale farms. Besides these farms, there has been infiltration by small farmers and land grabbing. All this has resulted in large losses of dry season grazing and permanent water sources. People are being squeezed into smaller areas, which have to be used all year round which have resulted in the degradation of the environment.
Frequent droughts have led to the weakening of stock, reduction in their numbers and decreasing productivity. Many families have seen their herds drastically reduced and others have lost their total stock. This has necessitated the diversification of the pastoral economy to include agriculture, which in turn encourages sedentarization of people and restricted livestock mobility, leading to further land degradation.
The pastoralists' communities have found themselves increasingly marginalised economically, socially and politically. The physical infrastructure in the four Maasai Districts is either lacking or extremely inadequate. Existing roads are in dire state of disrepair and in many areas there are no all-weather roads. This makes communication and access to social services very difficult. During the wet season, some areas are completely cut off.
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