Problem Statement and Project Justification
Maasai Culture and Sustainable Development
The Maasai in Ngorongoro are transhumant pastoral community. They live in a sparsely populated Arid and Semi arid land in Northern Tanzania . While the Maasai community leads a pastoral way of life they are also forced to nomadism due to scarcity of water and grazing fields for their animals. Nomadism entails the movement of a community or part of it with their animals in search of water and grazing field. Nomadism has a direct effect to the socialization of children and the access to education and health services. A nomadic life deprives the children access to formal education. The girls are left at home to take care of the calves, and help in household chores such as house construction, fetching water, firewood and preparing food. The rich Maasai culture also provides for early marriage for girls. Before marriage tradition dictates that girls must be circumcised in accordance with the tradition.
As a result circumcision for girls also means dropping from school. When a Maasai girl is circumcised, she is regarded as a woman and can be married off to a man chosen by the parents. The Maasai community is traditionally a polygamous community.
Occasionally young school-going girls are married off to elderly men as 3rd, 4th ….nth wife. While this act deprives the girls the opportunity to study, they are not given a choice and must be married as decreed. When young women are married off to elderly men, they tend to move with younger men of their age promoting promiscuity and exposing them to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. This was confirmed by women in a women baraza during the pilot study.
A Maasai Moran is a young man who is not married. The Maasai moran defends the society and looks after their fathers’ animals. After marriage, they cease to be morans and graduate to have their own homes and children, their places as morans are taken over by new graduates of a younger generation.
The council of elders has the final say on decisions concerning the community and once a decision is made, it cannot be reversed. The chain of command is very strictly defined. The council of elders is the custodian of the community and is responsible of safeguarding the traditions of the Maasai people and of all decision making that affect the community. The council also arbitrates disputes within the community and is responsible for the management of environment and resources.
The council of elders being the custodian of the community value system is the only authority that can alter the traditions. Even though the community is facing many challenges emanating from both the culture and globalization, the elders can effectively bring tailored solutions. This is because the elders are the ones who make and implement decisions relating to the community. Any cultural readjustment must result from a dialogical process with the elders to educate them on issues that touch on the development of the community. When the council is educated on protecting progressing culture and readjusting on the aspects of the culture that may lead to retrogression on the community welfare, they can effectively administer changes to the people to adopt development.
Poor Availability of water both for human and domestic livestock
The Maasai community practices transhumant pastoralism which means seasonal mobility of livestock to access water and grazing in a context where land is communally owned and used for pastoral production. For the pastoral economy to be productive, availability of adequate water is a necessity. But up to now, the problem of water ranks as one of the most important and critical problems which constrain socio-economic development of the pastoralist Maasai in the Ngorongoro district. This problem takes a high toll on the livestock during the dry season every year. Human beings share the same water with livestock and wildlife in many areas. The amount of calories and time expended by women who trek long distances to fetch water for their families are immense. More than 80 % of the people have no access to clean water. Safe water does not exist at all. The scarcity of water in the region exposes the community to the risks of human-wildlife conflicts.
Health Problems in Ngorongoro District
Ngorongoro district is the remotest district from the regional headquarters. This causes huge logistical problems. As for the area of health, the leading diseases are malaria, HIV/AIDS and respiratory problems due to the nature of housing and culture in Maasailand.
The other problem is the alarming deaths of women due to birth related problems. In Tanzania , in every 100,000 births, 578 deaths take place. This is devastating indeed.
The traditional sexual behavior patterns in the Maasai such as polygamy, youthful marriage and culture promote the spread of HIV/AIDS. And to bring about a change in this regard calls for cultural re-adjustment. This calls for a well thought out cultural dialogical process within the cultural framework of the Maasai culture to ensure sustainability of effected re-adjustments in the culturally defined sexual behavior patterns.
The only district hospital which is owned by the Catholic Church is constrained by inadequate financial, staffing and other resources to deliver adequate services to the beneficiary communities. The Hospital is located in Loliondo, but the surrounding villages are too far away.
The advent of HIV/AIDS is another reality which recently came into the arena of social relations. The cultural system of the Maasai which is still very traditional makes it imperative to develop strategies uniquely specific to the Maasai cultural context to fight against the problem.
Women Situations in Ngorognoro District
The Maasai community livelihood system is so critically hinged on transhumant pastoralism. By virtue of the patriarchal nature of the social organization of the Maasai society, women have had few opportunities to access formal education. Hence illiteracy remains a major problem which also externalizes women from participating in leadership and decision making processes in the socio-economic development arena. This also accounts for poor participation of women in the political representation.
In the socio-economic arena, decisions in terms of planning and implementation of development activities are carried out mostly by men. This whole process is responsible for the current social status of women which is characterized by economic poverty and political powerlessness. This project will commit itself to enabling women through organized groups and individuals to design various socio-economic empowerment interventions in the areas of economic and socio-cultural development. Through cultural dialogical processes, issues of gender will be addressed in a culturally and morally sensitive manner. This project will therefore mainstream gender in all its programs.