Cattle and Maasai Harmonial

One of the goals of the Maasai Harmonial project is self-sufficient sustainability.

For this reason, we try to make capital investments into the project and not contributions that will have to go on year after year.

Currently the Emburbul cattle business is on the low end of sustainability if you look at the sustainability of the majority of Emburbul’s residents, who are extremely poor. One person, however, owns most of the cattle, which does not benefit the rest of the residents. This person’s cattle consumes water and grassland from the same source as the other, poorer, people’s cattle. Since quantity of water and grassland is often not enough to meet everyone’s needs, this is a problem.

Cows not getting enough grass

Cows not getting enough grass (note the zebra in the background)

In 2008, a volcano spewed out ash and the ash covered the ground and destroyed the grasses, killing the cows. Many of Emburbul families lost their cattle and still have not recovered from this disaster.

These two situations alone are enough to set a Maasai man’s mind into a fatalist mode. It probably explains why the men refuse to sell a few of their cows in order to purchase a bull of a breed that would be more suited for the area. And why they don’t invest in worming medicine for the cows.

We thought about buying a strong, quality bull for the widows and women without husbands (who have run off due to poverty) to use as stud service. But the men are entrenched in their formerly sucessful ways and won’t hear of it.

In the past several months, a dry season came upon the Embulbul Depression, drying the grassland, and goats started dying from lack of water. The cattle fared a little better, but definitely showed the effects of low water intake.

Goats are dying. Giving them medicine

Goats are dying. Giving them medicine

Cattle upstream from the water supply poop in the water, leaving it contaminated. Even if water filters were available, having large amounts of material in the water makes filtering several times more difficult. Water-borne disease is a common ailment, especially for children. Water is boiled for infants, who are often weaned at only three months because mothers are malnourished and are spacing their children too close together.

Building watering troughs for all the cattle (including those of the rich man) will go a long way towards solving this problem.

In addition, there are a great many invasive plants in the grasslands, which the cattle will not eat. An intensive invasive plant eradication program is needed.

Someone built a cow tick dip station for the cattle, but the concrete was not sufficient and the bottom of the dip trough was destroyed the first day someone walked on it. A new dip station is on the list of things we need funding for.

Livestock, including cattle, bring another problem. One of the girls we sent to boarding school was sick due to eating unboiled meat. It is common for livestock of pastorals to be infected with this bacteria, which can damage organs. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics. Many villagers are affected.

Often, when the water is diverted for the cattle, women have to walk four miles each way to and from the water source. This takes time away from their children and house keeping duties. It may also interfere with their ability to have a livelihood such as beading or livestock raising. And it may also interfere with the ability of girls to attend school. Their mothers may need them to haul water.

Improvements to the water system and conservation of water at the village end will go a long way towards eliminating this eight mile walk each day.

The Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) has a program where the women have their own cattle-raising boma (small village). We are thinking of sending a group of women without men (widows and women whose husbands have left them) to PWC for business and livestock training. Raising goats or chickens may be what these women can do, if they can get enough water for these animals.

Cattle are used to pay a bride price so a man can get married. If a man does not have enough cattle, he or his parents may want to marry off his sister to receive the bride price. This is one of the things that puts young girls as young as age 12 in early marriages.

If a man cannot raise the bride price, he may be tempted to leave the village and move to the city in order to find a job.

These problems having to do with the cattle business must be addressed in order to achieve sustainability, women’s empowerment, and smaller families.

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