Adumu Impact:

Maasai Empowerment

Tourism brings a crisis but also an opportunity to Maasailand.

The crisis: The tourism industry has been extremely damaging to the Maasai people
over the past several decades.

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people who depend upon their cattle for sustenance in the arid regions they inhabit north and south of the Tanzania-Kenya border. For hundreds of years, the Maasai peacefully coexisted with the region’s amazing wildlife as they migrated their cattle to green areas depending on seasons and weather patterns. Between the Maasai and the wild fauna, relatively little human-wildlife conflict ever arose, as the Maasai have great respect for wild animals and raise cattle, to them a gift to their people from God, so that they do not have to hunt in the wild. In the past several decades, “ecotourism,” as it has been thrown around in the region, has protected animals at the expense of the Maasai who have been forcibly, sometimes violently, pushed off their ancestral land. Without the ability to migrate their cattle freely to green areas, the Maasai have become food insecure and their traditional ways of life have been difficult to maintain. Ironically, it has been the colonial presence and their introduction of guns, global demands—past and present—for wild animal parts, and big game hunting expeditions for wealthy foreign travelers that have posed the greatest threat to the wild animals of Tanzania and Kenya. Because the tourism industry is so profitable for the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments, Maasai have been pushed off their land to make way for foreign companies to develop safari camps and lodges in the name of “ecotourism”. Yet, in reality, these camps are likely far less sustainable and pose a greater impact on the natural landscape than the Maasai ever did. The job now is to figure out how to restore the Maasai’s traditional way of life as semi-nomadic cattle herders who can move to fertile land as needed and peacefully coexist with wildlife.

The Opportunity

The Opportunity: Maasai Empowerment Land Restoration Program

Adumu Safaris intervenes at this crossroads by establishing ourselves as a socially responsible, social impact safari tour company with a particular focus on Maasai empowerment. We envision several actions and interventions, including our Maasai Empowerment Land Restoration Program. OUR BIG GOAL is to return land to the Maasai people and encourage their traditional ways of sustainable co-existence with wildlife while providing and promoting responsible travel in the region. Our “Generous Giving” fund will help to purchase land that would ordinarily be sold to big tourism development projects from wealthy countries outside of the region and instead give it to the Maasai. Part of the land that we purchase will be developed in a sustainable way for tourism purposes that will generate income for Maasai and hence empower them socially. These developments include eco-friendly, zero carbon footprint lodges built, owned, and managed by the Maasai. These also include the building of Maasai cultural centers that are dedicated to curating the Maa language and local knowledge of the Maasai in order to preserve it for future generations of Maasai and share it with the rest of the world. We will hold classes here to educate Maasai children in their mother tongue about their heritage, traditions, and local knowledge in a way that empowers and uplifts them and allows them to hold on to their Maasai way of life, even as they encounter other languages and cultures. These will also serve as socially responsible cultural centers hosting classes, lectures, and immersion programs for tourists to learn about the Maasai (traditionally a big tourist “attraction”) in a way that does not objectify them but rather shows respect, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and helps spread Maasai knowledge to the rest of the world. The rest of the land will be used to help restore the traditional Maasai way of life, the basis of which is the ability to freely migrate to fertile grazing land as needed. We believe in the value of cultural diversity in the form of indigenous knowledge that can contribute to the progress of our species on this planet and the benefit of all. It is important to us that Maasai knowledge survives.

Protectors of Wildlife

We see opportunities for the Maasai to help the government and other global efforts to end poaching by applying the Maasai’s traditional training as a warrior tribe to combat poachers in the bush. We see the presence of Maasai on their ancestral lands as a boon to anti-poaching efforts, and Adumu Safaris wants to organize efforts to mobilize warriors as protectors of wildlife. This is an example of how restoring and preserving the Maasai’s traditional way of life, of which Maasai are deeply proud, increases sustainability and reduces human-wildlife conflict around the game parks.

Maasai Futures

With the help of our partners, we also aim to assist the Maasai in “modernizing” in ways they desire, for example: women’s empowerment; educational opportunities; health care; building passable roads; and sustainable/solar energy to fuel homes. The future of the Maasai hangs in the balance and depends upon a synthesis of tradition and innovation, tourism and land rights, sustainable living practices and wildlife conservation. Such a synthesis extends beyond the Maasai as a model of the future for all of us to show how humanity can coexist peacefully with other species with minimal impact to the planet.