Contributed by Henri ole Saitabau

Abstract:

Since time immemorial, the Loita Maasai have had rich indigenous knowledge about their environment and how to monitor and predict climate and seasonal cycles through observation of behavioral characteristics of biological components, cosmology and other traditional, socio-cultural methods. They still use the same knowledge to model weather events and livelihood management. However unpredictable weather variations has become so phenomenal that drought that used to occur every ten years is now occurring every two years or less and the trend continues to worsen. Annual rainfall is more erratic and figures continue to decline while people experience warmer dry months.

Climate change is severely affecting the weather patterns thus raising concerns for livelihoods, socio-economic and environmental sustainability. Owing to changes in seasonal cycles, the Loita Maasai pastoralists in recent years have experienced the full impact of prolonged droughts leading to drying of water sources, poor crop yields and livestock losses, all resulting in food insecurity. This increased vulnerability has thus put the community to high risks of natural disasters. The use of traditional warning systems to monitor weather variations is becoming difficult, owing to unprecedented environmental changes, although this can also partly be blamed on erosion of indigenous knowledge.

Work carried out in Loita in 2010 has shown that during drought (as was the case 2007-2009), community adaptation strategies and mitigation measures are suspended, resulting in increased environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. This paper seeks to identify the various forms of pastoral livelihoods that are now vulnerable as a result of climate change. It also seeks to identify some of the community-derived priority strategies that the Loita Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania can use to improve resilience and adaptations, citing various mitigation measures that use local indigenous knowledge. The paper also shows how climate change has impacted on the cultural heritage especially ceremonial cycles as well as cultural sites where such cultural ceremonies are undertaken and also includes adaptive measures proposed by the community.

Read the whole report here: From the Field_Henry_ISE Paper 2014