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Pastoralism in Africa

  • Even today, over 22 million Africans depend on some form of pastoral activity for their livelihood.

Pastoral Communities of Africa

  • Bedouins,
  • Berbers,
  • Maasai,
  • Somali,
  • Boran,
  • Turkana.
  • Most of the Pastoral Communities of Africa now live in the semi-arid grasslands or arid deserts where rain fed agriculture is difficult.
  • They raise cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys and they sell milk, animal skin and wool.
  • Some also earn through trade and transport, a few others combine pastoral activity with agriculture and still others do a variety of odd jobs to supplement their meagre and uncertain earning from pastoralism.

Like in India the life of these pastoralists have changed dramatically during the colonial rule.

The Maasai cattle herders live primarily in east Africa. 300,000 in Southern Kenya and 150,000 in Tanzania.





Look into the problems faced by the Maasais.



Loss of Grazing land

One of the problems that the Maasai have faced is the continuous loss of their grazing lands.
  • The international boundary between British Kenya and German Tanganyika cut the Maasai land into half.
  • Good grazing land was taken for the white settlement.
  • The Maasais lost 60 percent of their fertile land and they were left only with arid zone. 

Rule to Cultivate Land

  • The British colonial government encouraged local people to cultivate land.
  • As cultivation expanded the pasture land shrank.
  • In pre-colonial period the Massai pastoralists dominated the agriculturalist both economically and politically. By the end of the Colonial rule it became the reverse.


Problems faced by the Maasais

  • Large areas of grazing land were also turned into game reserves like, the Maasai Mara and Samburu National Park in Kenya and the Serengeti Park in Tanzania.

                                                   Game Reserves of Africa
  • Pastoralists were not allowed to enter these restricted areas.
  • Continuous grazing within a small area inevitably meant a deterioration of the quality of pastures. Fodder was always in short supply. Feeding the cattle became a persistent problem.

Plight of the Pastoral Community

Like the Maasai, other pastoral groups were also forced to live within the confines of special reserves. The Pastoralists were also not allowed to enter the markets in white areas. In many regions, they were prohibited from participating in any form of trade.
The new territorial boundaries and restrictions imposed on them suddenly changed the lives of pastoralists. They adversely affected both their pastoral livelihood and the trading of various products.
Drought affected the life of pastoralists everywhere.
When rains failed and pastures dried, the cattle were likely to starve unless they were moved to areas where forage was available.

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