Africa Climate Change Threatens Life and Health of Maasai Women
Ebby Nanzala Wamatsi – WNN Features
Kajiado, Kenya: The Maasai are struggling with frequent water shortages which are threatening their way of life. But one women’s group is taking action.
Day in and day out from the months of March through to June, grey and white clouds float across the blue skies above Kajiado, southern Kenya. But each passing day, the rain they promise frequently fails to show up.
“There’s been practically no rain in the region,” says David Kirrinkai, the assistant chief of Oliteyani, a sub-location of Ngong Hills in Kajiado. “We just receive a few showers, with no means of tapping it for storage.”
The lack of rain has had serious implications for the environmental region as both people and animals are suffering. The Maasai people have to share the land with all kinds of wildlife here. And when water is short in supply, incidents of conflict arise.
The Maasai have lived and coped here for centuries, but the new weather patterns are threatening their way of life. In recent decades, seasonal patterns have become unpredictable and rainfall levels have become lower.
As traditional cattle herders, the Maasai have found themselves leaving their homes for months at a time in search of pastures and water for their animals. In most cases this means vulnerable women, children and the elderly are left behind to fend for themselves in the villages.
Maasai herders dressed in their bright red shuka cloaks, have now become a common feature on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi, as they search for pastures. Others are dropping out of their pastoral lifestyle altogether and moving to the cities in search of employment.
“The devastation can be too much to bear,” says James Lekurra, a Maasai elder who lost his entire herd to the drought. “Three decades ago, the rains used to come regularly and we had little stress. But now the atmosphere has changed. We are no longer sure that the rains will come as we expect.”
The recurrence of droughts in East Africa is a natural calamity that is delivering a serious blow to the region. Scientists blame the massive clearance of forests as well as the emission of carbon gasses into the atmosphere as a cause of the droughts.
Women in particular face the challenge of fetching the scarce water for the household’s use. In some cases they are forced to walk for over ten kilometers in search of water. When droughts worsen and springs dry up, some are forced to return home empty-handed.
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