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Maasai

Project Title: Inclusion of Maa indigenous peoples’ in assessing their climate change adaptation and mitigation knowledge

Participating Indigenous Peoples/Nation: Naimina Enkiyio Community, Narok, Loita, Naimina Enkiyio, Orkiramatian, Kajiado North, Olkiramatian, Elangata Wuas, Kajiado Central, Ilchamus, Baringo, Ilkeekonyokie, Kajaido North, Central Keekonyokie

Proponent Organisation: Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO)

Overall Project Objective
To increase the knowledge and understanding of indigenous peoples on climate change, how this links to their traditional natural resource management knowledge and their rights to control and manage their natural resources. Further the project aims to establish Indigenous Traditional Knowledge on climate change, and to strategically plan, participate and engage more meaningfully in the climate change issues, locally, nationally, regionally and internationally

Brief Description of Project:
Climate change is expected to bring major environmental changes globally but especially in the dry lands of Africa. Pastoralist communities who are already feeling the most serious impact of climate change must be at the center of the climate change discussions and dialogue if adaptation and mitigation to climate change is to be effective in dry land areas of Africa. The livelihood systems of pastoralists must be widely understood in order to: avoid the past mistakes that led to failures in pastoralist areas and to create better understanding that will enable adequate, equitable and timely responds. This project will seek to construe the shared meaning of climate change among the Maa community, linking it to the international solutions to climate change.

Local ecosystem, resource management and livelihoods practices:
The vegetation consists, to a large extent, of Grassland, with Poaceae forming the main vegetation layer, interspersed with few annuals and perennials, and occasional trees and shrubs, mostly Acacia sp. Theses grasslands derive from Evergreen Bushland under constant grazing and fire pressure. Soils are mainly black cotton soils. Wooded Grassland shows a very similar appearance, however bush cover increases up to 40 percent. In Evergreen Bushland, shrubby vegetation and tree islands cover more than 40 percent of the ground.

The main pillars of Maasai diet are still milk and blood from cows, and soups derived from wild collected herbs. Berries and other wild fruits supplement the diet. Both are eaten mostly by women and children. Herbal knowledge is widespread in the community. Families are often able to care for their own health. Traditional healers “laibon” are mostly responsible for the treatment.
Plants are also of vital importance in traditional home construction.

In most plants in this category were used to tie the sticks together to frame traditional huts (Cyperus distans, C. pinguis, Hibiscus calyphyllus, Pavonia patens, Oplismenus compositus, Dombeya burgessiae, Grewia bicolor, G. tembensis). The Maasai used mostly spiny species for fence construction (Chaetacme microcarpa, Acacia polyacantha, Pyrostria phyllanthoidea). Hyparrhenia hirta is used as thatch. The scarce timber is needed as firewood.

Climatic conditions/trends in the assessment site
The region receives about 600 mm annual rainfall with peaks in April and December. Pastoralists’ mobility acts as a means to adapt to changing patterns of rainfall, whereas a combination of different livestock species each herded in different directions provides greater protection from drought. Coping mechanisms and strategies among pastoralists include out migration and recourse to wage labor, use of wild fruits, exceptional pastoralist migrations to drought refuges or rarely used range lands, and inter community sharing of food and livestock.

Potential climate change impacts on the ecosystem and communities:
The Maasai are aware that seasons are changing. The rainfall is less predictable. They are having to move their livestock more frequently than they used to. For example, the cold season used to last a month (July) and was also characterized by showers and sometimes moderate rainfall. Nowadays the cold weather lasts from June to end of August and is mostly just cold and dry in this part. From existing records, the area has experienced frequent droughts in the last three decades.
Frequent droughts are exerting a major impact on people’s livelihoods, increasing their vulnerability to food insecurity by reducing their coping abilities and often leading to massive losses in livestock numbers. Besides the loss of livestock, water sources have been reported to dry up sooner, while other hitherto reliable sources such as rivers and springs continue to dry up, leading to unprecedented scarcity in areas where the commodity had always been plenty or relatively available.
Traditional knowledge about herbs, grasses, fruits, tubers and other knowledge about the environment is diminishing because many of those plants and wildlife are disappearing and so the youth cannot be taught effectively about them.
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