What happens to pastoral children when the last goat dies: Ann’s story

ILRI-duckrabbit photofilm: Ann's Story

ILRI-duckrabbit photofilm on the impacts of a 2009 drought in Kenya on Maasai children in the Kitengela rangelands, outside Nairobi (website image credit: duckrabbit).

What’s it like for a pastoral family in Africa to lose all their animals? What will the livestock peoples of the Horn do in the aftermath of this year’s devastating drought, which is sending so many into poverty?

We can get a glimpse from this 2-minute photofilm/photo-testimony of Ann Aiyaki, an adolescent Maasai schoolgirl whose family fled to Kitengela in 2009, and whose life changed when the rains failed and the animals died.


Similar to so many tens of thousands of Somali herding families on the march today in search of food and refuge from the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, many of Kenya’s pastoralists in a great, previous, drought of 2009 were forced to move. We met Ann Aiyaki and her family in the Kitengela Maasai rangelands just outside of Nairobi. This is her story of how the drought affected her life.

We used to keep livestock. Our lives were very different then.’—Ann Aiyaki

This photofilm was produced during a week-long photofilm training course led by duckrabbit’s Benjamin Chesterton and David White at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya. The audio and production was led by ILRI staff Muthoni Njiru, Julius Nyangaga and Tezira Lore. The photos are by ILRI’s Muthoni Njiru, Julius Nyangaga and Tezira Lore and duckrabbit photographer David White. With special thanks to David Chesterton for his passion and talent in helping ILRI conceptualize, make and finalize this film, and to David White for his extraordinary photographic generosity. We thank both for their uncommon ability to give others confidence in using their talents to make a bigger difference.

About duckrabbit
Duckrabbit is an award-winning digital production company that in documentary audio, still photography and video to make compelling film and audio narratives for commercial, charity and broadcast clients.  They also train photographers, videographers, journalists and communications professionals in audio-visual storytelling and online strategic communications.

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Numbers of wildlife in Kenya’s famous Mara region have declined by two-thirds or more over last 33 years

Landscapes from the Mara

Landscape taken on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya, July 2009 (photo credit: jschinker‘s Flickr photostream). ‘Sadly, wildlife are apparently being monitored into extinction in the Mara. Without urgent, decisive and resolute actions, more local extinctions may yet occur and the spectacular migration for which the Mara is world famous may continue to dwindle’—Joseph Ogutu.

Some devastating news has just been published in a leading scientific journal about wildlife declines in Kenya.

Scientists have found that wildlife populations in Kenya’s famous Mara region declined progressively after 1977, with few exceptions. Populations of almost all wildlife species have declined to a third or less of their former abundance both in the protected Masai Mara National Reserve and in the adjoining pastoral ranches.

Human influences appeared to be the fundamental cause. Besides reinforced antipoaching patrols, the expansion of cultivation, settlements and fences and livestock stocking levels on the pastoral ranches need to be regulated to avoid further declines in the wildlife resource.

Populations of many wild ungulate species in Africa are in decline largely because of land-use changes and other human activities.

The four authors of this paper, published online last week in the Journal of Zoology (20 May 2011) include lead author Joseph Ogutu, formerly of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and now at the University of Hohenheim, and last author Mohamed Said, of ILRI.

Read a short brief providing background to this new item.

Read the abstract of the paper: Continuing wildlife population declines and range contraction in the Mara region of Kenya during 1977–2009

For more information, please contact:
Joseph Ogutu in Germany at jogutu2007 [at] gmail.com
Mohamed Said at ILRI Nairobi at m.said [at] cgiar.org
Jan de Leeuw, ILRI team leader, at ILRI Nairobi at j.leeuw [at] cgiar.org

Traditional knowledge key to managing outbreaks of Rift Valley fever: Study points out important role livestock keepers play in veterinary surveillance

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya. Cattle and people both can be infected with Rift Valley fever (Photo credit: R Dolan)

Livestock researchers say the traditional knowledge of local pastoralists in East Africa needs to be included in programs to better control livestock diseases in the region.

Somali and Maasai herder early warning systems both were key in identifying the risk factors and symptoms of Rift Valley fever in an outbreak in 2006/7.

Rift Valley fever is an acute viral zoonosis spread by mosquitoes. It primarily affects domestic livestock such as cattle, camels, sheep and goats, but can also infect, and kill, people, especially those handling infected animals.

First isolated in humans in the Rift Valley region of Kenya in 1930, until the 1970s Rift Valley fever was reported mainly in southern and eastern Africa, primarily Kenya, where it was considered an animal disease, despite sporadic human cases. But after the 1970s, explosive outbreaks occurred in human populations throughout Africa, Indian Ocean states and the Arabian Peninsula. Epidemics in Egypt in 1977/8 and in Kenya in 1997/8 each killed several hundred people. Another outbreak in Kenya in 2006/7 killed more than 100 people.

In East Africa, Rift Valley fever outbreaks have coincided with heavy rainfall and local flooding, which can lead to expansion of mosquito populations. In an assessment made to review lessons from the 2006/7 outbreak in East Africa carried out by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Kenyan and Tanzanian departments of veterinary services, researchers found that Somali pastoralists of northeastern Kenya accurately assessed the likelihood of an outbreak based on their assessments of key risk factors, and they did so long before veterinary and public health interventions began. The study also looked at the experiences of Maasai herders of northern Tanzania, who accurately recognized symptoms such as high abortion rates as indicating the presence of the infection in their herds.

Among the environmental factors the Somali communities noticed as likely to lead to an outbreak is an increase in rainfall (usually accompanied by floods) and an increase in mosquitoes. Both preceded the 2006/7 outbreak and had been present in the last outbreak of Rift Valley fever in the region in 1997/8. The Somalis also accurately associated a ‘bloody nose’, or Sandik, in their animals with Rift Valley fever.

The role of this traditional knowledge in predicting Rift Valley fever is the subject of a paper, ‘Epidemiological assessment of the Rift Valley fever outbreak in Kenya and Tanzania in 2006 and 2007’, published in the August 2010 supplement of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The authors say that Somali pastoralists are particularly able to predict not only the symptoms of Rift Valley fever in their animals but also the likelihood of an outbreak of the disease. Indeed, observations by local communities in risk-prone areas were often more timely and definitive than the global early warning systems in use at the time of the 2006/7 outbreak.

‘Timely outbreak response requires effective early warning and surveillance systems. This study points out the important role that livestock keepers can play in veterinary surveillance,’ the authors say.

As a result of the experiences of the 2007 outbreak, the authors recommend adopting new forecasting models and surveillance systems ‘that place more emphasis on climatic information [to] increase the lead time before events and enhance the ability of decision-makers to take timely action.’

The researchers also say that outbreaks of Rift Valley fever could be managed better if disease control workers were able to run models that combined economic with epidemiologic factors. With such models, they could better determine the benefits of implementing various disease surveillance and control methods, and the best times to implement each method selected for each circumstance.

This piece is adapted from the article New journal article: An assessment of the regional and national socio-economic impacts of the 2007 Rift Valley fever outbreak in Kenya by Tezira Lore, communications specialist for ILRI’s Markets Theme.

To read the complete report and its recommendations please visit http://www.ajtmh.org/cgi/content/abstract/83/2_Suppl/65/

A related ILRI news article addresses the full effects of the 2006/7 Rift Valley fever outbreak in East Africa, including the national and regional socioeconomic impacts of the outbreak and its effects on human and animal health.

Kenya's Maasai herders take jobs and farm crops to cope with change

Collaborative research between Kenyan Maasai communities and a researcher from Canada’s McGill University has identified how these semi-nomadic herding communities are changing to cope with changing climate and land tenure systems. Results of research conducted during a great drought in Kenya’s Maasailand and other regions from 2007 to 2009 show that more and more Maasai households are diversifying their livelihoods and making use of ‘strategic mobility’ to cope with changing land tenure systems.
In a presentation last week of research findings at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus, in Nairobi, Kenya, John Galaty, of McGill University, noted that ‘the Maasai community is dealing with the aftermath of the long drought, which devastated their livelihoods, by making more opportunistic use of their land, by diversifying into cropping, by keeping fewer and faster growing animals and by taking on paying jobs.’
In studies done across nine sites in Ole Tepesi, Maji Moto and Elangata Wuas in Kenya’s Kajiado and Narok districts, researchers found that members of the communities who diversified into agriculture had higher chances of maintaining their livelihoods during droughts than those who relied on animals alone. The research looked at the experiences of higher, medium- and low-income households.
Well-known methods used by the Maasai to cope with drought—such as splitting herds, keeping fewer animals and moving stock to find water or grass—are still in use. A closer assessment of mobility patterns showed that pastoralists with external sources of income could afford to keep their animals in one location during drought because they were able to buy and bring in feed and drugs for them. The poorest members of the community were hurt the most by drought because they were forced to move their animals in search of fodder or water. The study also disclosed that the richer members of the community hired their poorer neighbours to herd their animal stock to better grazing lands while they themselves pursued other livelihood options.
Galaty said that the movement of animals by the Maasai is never haphazard. ‘The Maasai just don’t start to move once the drought bites,’ he said. ‘We found out that most people moved their animals based on social relationships. People were linked to relatives or friends who lived in areas where pasture was still available. Others relied on word from other parts of the region that pasture was available before starting to move. In such cases, conventional boundaries were not enforced and people openly shared “private” resources. Some even moved their animals into Tanzania, where they were welcomed by the Maasai who live there.’ The research also showed that stock movement by members of Maasai group ranches was also well planned and coordinated.
Nonetheless, the increasingly popular subdivision of Maasai communal lands into private holdings, often with little consultation with the communities concerned, is greatly restricting the traditional mobility of these herding communities. Individuals are increasingly enforcing their rights to private ownership, and use, of land in both Kajiado and Narok districts. Such privatization of land threatens Maasai pastoralism by disrupting the well-established ‘mobility’ mechanism they use to cope with periodic drought.
An earlier (not yet published) study by David Nkedianye, a Maasai graduate student with ILRI, on the effects of the 2005 to 2006 drought on Kenyan Maasai indicates that land privatization and large movements of animals can weaken the ability of households to cope with drought. For example, at times in this drought the Kitengela Maasai rangeland, although it received relatively good rainfall, had the greatest number of livestock deaths because of an influx of livestock brought to Kitengela by herders from other Maasai communities in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Staff of ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment Theme, who are conducting livestock research in these same Maasai lands, hosted Galaty and organized for his presentation.

East Coast fever vaccine comes to market in eastern and southern Africa

As the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) meets in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week, reviewing ILRI’s animal health research among other work, an ILRI vaccine project is highlighted in a new publication, DFID Research 2009–2010: Providing research evidence that enables poverty reduction. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation both support the Global Alliance in Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), which works to convert existing or near-market technologies into livestock medicines and vaccines for use in developing countries. The notable success of this strategy in 2009, says DFID, is an East Coast fever vaccine produced by ILRI. East Coast fever is a tick-transmitted disease that kills one cow every 30 seconds in eastern, central and southern Africa, where it threatens some 25 million cattle in 11 countries and is now putting at risk a further 10 million animals in new regions, such as southern Sudan, where the disease has been spreading at a rate of more than 30 kilometres a year. The disease is a major cattle killer. In herds kept by the pastoralist Maasai, it kills 20–50% of all unvaccinated calves, which makes it difficult and often impossible for the herders to plan for the future or to improve their livestock enterprises. A vaccine for East Coast fever could save over a million cattle and up to £170 million a year in the 11 countries where the disease is now endemic. An experimental vaccine against East Coast fever, which makes use of live but weakened parasites, has existed for more than three decades, with batches mass produced in ILRI’s Nairobi laboratories. Although constrained by the need for a ‘cold chain’ to keep the ‘live’ vaccine viable, field use of this vaccine in Tanzania and elsewhere has proved it to be highly effective and in demand by poor livestock keepers, who are paying for the vaccine to keep their animals alive. GALVmed has worked with ILRI and private companies, such as VetAgro Tanzania Ltd., to make East Coast fever vaccine available to the livestock keepers who need it most and to scale up production in future. With £16.5 million provided by DFID and the BMGF, GALVmed began working on the registration and commercial distribution and delivery of a new batch of the vaccine produced by ILRI. The vaccine was successfully registered in 2009 in Malawi and Kenya, with Tanzania and Uganda expected to follow soon. If it is approved in Uganda, it will be the first veterinary vaccine formally registered in that country. GALVmed is now working to establish viable commercial production and delivery systems, aiming that by the end of 2011, all aspects of the production and delivery of East Coast fever vaccine are in private hands.

Pastoral reciprocity: A lesson in community ethos

Impacts of drought in Kitengela in 2009

We heard today from Mohamed Said, a scientist leading research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on pastoral rangelands in eastern Africa, that Kitengela, a Maasai rangeland neighbouring Nairobi, is turning green again after good recent rains following last year's devastating drought, which the livestock herders in Kitengela say killed most of their livestock along with much of the area's wildlife. Interestingly, although already turned green with heavy rains that arrived early in this year, this rangeland remains virtually empty of cattle. It is, rather, full of sheep and goats. Kitengela's Maasai herders have driven all their cattle southeast to Emali. Said and ILRI Maasai partner Nickson ole Parmisa say that the herders will bring their cattle back home, to Kitengela, in another few weeks, when the grass in Kitengela, which is now new and short, has grown taller. Here is a case study in how Africa's pastoral societies continue to work, against all odds, as communities. Late last year, when the impacts of the drought in the Horn of Africa were peaking, Maasai herders from throughout Kenya's Kajiado District descended on Kitengela with their animal herds because they had heard that the Kitengela rangelands had had 'a few showers'. That was true in a few places, but with all the new livestock driven in to this one part of Kajiado, Kitengela was reduced to a dustbowl within a few days. With no forage to eat, the livestock of Kitengela perished soon after the stock that had been trekked in from far places. Many people began to question the wisdom of traditional pastoral movement on Africa's increasingly fragmented rangelands. Now, just a few months later, the Maasai herders of Emali are returning the hospitality, and mercy, shown them last year by their Kitengela cousins. It is now the Emali Maasai who are sharing their green grass (the rains came earlier to Emali than to Kitengela, so the grass at Emali is taller than that in Kitengela) with the hungry animals of Kitengela. While scientists at ILRI and elsewhere debate the wisdom of pastoral mobility (does it still work in today's crowded world?), what apparently is not in doubt is the wisdom of pastoral reciprocity.

Staying Maasai? Livelihoods, conservation and development in East Africa rangelands

Staying Maasai

As East Africa’s iconic tribe changes with the times to keep its pastoral heritage alive, will the herders also be able and willing to save the wildlife populations around them? (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Every year, over a million people visit the national parks and game reserves in East Africa, generating up to nearly US$2 billion a year in revenue. The most famous of these parks are in the Maasai heartland straddling the Kenya-Tanzania border. This ‘Maasailand’ supports the most diverse concentrations of big mammals left on earth.

Often overlooked is the abundance of wildlife mixed with livestock and pastoral peoples on grasslands adjacent to the parks and reserves—and the ways these pastoral herders and their animal stock contribute to the balance of these wildlife-rich savanna ecosystems.

A new book, Staying Maasai? Livelihoods, Conservation and Development in East African Rangelands, looks at thirty years of research on East Africa’s iconic Maasai people. In it, a group of international researchers argue for big and deep changes in the region’s policies affecting Maasailand and its people.

Semi-nomadic herders have maintained a pastoral way of life, co-existing with the wildlife in this region, for several thousand years. But that balance appears to have reached its tipping point. A recent study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), for example, has shown dramatic declines of six species of wild ungulates (hoofed animals)—giraffes, hartebeest, impala, warthogs, topis and waterbuck—in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, in just the last 15 years. The researchers found that these wildlife declines are linked to growing human populations crowding at the boundaries of the Reserve, which are transforming these former grasslands, the traditional ‘dispersal lands’ for wildlife, into urban settlements and crop and livestock farms, thus fragmenting the former wildlife habitats.

Staying Maasai? portrays the many ways Maasai are adapting to—and driving—rapid environmental, political and societal changes. Substantial components of the book are a product of a collaborative research program, ‘Assessing Trade-offs between Poverty Alleviation and Wildlife Conservation’, involving a multidisciplinary and international group of natural and social scientists and their Maasai collaborators, funded by the Belgian Government and coordinated by ILRI. The book’s authors encourage decision-makers to look to the Maasai peoples themselves for sustainable solutions to conserving both wildlife and pastoral lifestyles, noting that contrary to conventional wisdom, few Maasai families are yet benefiting much from wildlife tourism. A fresh look at land, pastoral and conservation policies is urgently needed to ensure the survival of this community and its wildlife-rich pastoral lands in Kenya and Tanzania.

Wildlife revenues reach few Maasai people
The findings in this volume counter national policy maxims in Kenya and Tanzania by demonstrating the generally disappointing performance of wildlife for local livelihoods. While delivering significant returns to a few landowning households living adjacent to top-end wildlife eco-tourist destinations, wildlife brings very limited returns to most Maasai households.
A case study included in this book on wildlife and Maasai living in the Kitengela region just outside Kenya’s capital of Nairobi shows that leasing and other ecosystem services payment schemes are promising ways to enhance local livelihoods. Much more work needs to be done, however, to fulfil the promise of these schemes to benefit most of the pastoral people living in wildlife areas. Allowing the schemes to merely hobble on will fail to stop the continuing declines of wildlife and continuing impoverishment of most Maasai.

The lasting value of pastoral livestock production
The research findings reported in this volume confirm the continued centrality of livestock to local livelihoods across Maasailand, making clear the lasting economic importance and resilience of pastoral livestock production. Katherine Homewood, professor of anthropology at University College London, who is a lead author and co-editor of the book, writes in the final chapter that livestock production should not be viewed ‘as some romanticized throwback to an earlier age, but as a robust and vital component of twenty-first century livelihoods in Maasai rangelands.’

Four policy lessons
With a wide range of livelihood strategies now being pursued in East Africa’s Maasailand, pastoral policy needs to take better account of the situation evolving on the ground.

(1) Support livestock production.
First and foremost, says Katherine Homewood, policy needs to take account of ‘the central nature and resilience of livestock production in the rangelands, and to embrace and foster pastoral production, supporting mobility, access to key resources, veterinary provision and marketing infrastructures.’ Homewood argues that ‘Rather than dismissing pastoral production as backward, unproductive and as failing to contribute to the national economy,’ Kenyan and Tanzanian national policies need to recognize the actual worth of this form of land use. She says these issues are insufficiently addressed in Kenya’s draft National Livestock Policy and that Tanzania’s current policies not only deny pastoralists some of their basic rights (by evicting pastoralists from some areas and denying others grazing land tenure), but in addition are counter-productive to Tanzania’s stated aims for achieving environmental and economic sustainability.

(2) Limit cultivation.
Second, governments need to be more realistic about the potential for, and impacts of, intensifying or extending crop cultivation across the rangelands to replace pastoralist livestock production. ‘It is unrealistic to envisage a major increase in food production from cultivation in arid and semi-arid rangelands,’ writes Homewood, ‘given the agro-ecological limitations both of water availability and of soil fertility.’

(3) Encourage non-farm employment.
Third, governments need to foster potential for non-farm employment in Maasailand through rural industries and better education. ‘The potential of pastoral systems will be realized only with better educational and rural diversification opportunities,’ says Homewood, ‘and acknowledgement of the importance of pastoral livestock production.’

(4) Distribute tourist revenues.
Finally, governments and conservation groups need to rethink their understanding of the contribution of wildlife conservation to rural livelihoods. Homewood concludes that ‘The structure of the tourist industry needs to change to allow landowners in Kenya to capture more than the 5% of revenues they are estimated to receive.’

For more information on the book Staying Maasai? and the complexity of ILRI’s work, click on the links below.

Table of Content PDF
Chapter One Introduction PDF
Chapter Four Kitengela PDF
Chapter Ten Wildlife PDF

To order a copy: Staying Maasai? Order form

More relevant information:
1.ILRI wildlife study press release

Mara study press room
3.Mara report- MEDIA COVERAGE

For more information please contact:

Dr. Patti Kristjanson
Leader, Innovation Works Initiative
International Livestock Research Institute
Telephone: +254-20-422-3000
Email: P.Kristjanson@cgiar.org
Website: www.ilri.org/InnovationWorks