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Indigenous People’s Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change: Experiences from the Maasai of Southern Kenya

September 2nd, 2011 | Source: Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO)

The long search for pasture for water livestock as well as wildlife/Photo: David Nkedianye, MPIDO)

This publication focuses on the devastating effects of climate change by describing the adaptation experiences of the Nilotic ethnic group of the Maasay, who inhabit the three districts of Greater Rift Valley, in South Kenya.

They have long been facing threats such as persistent droughts, long dry periods and the unpredictability and variability of rainfall, events which forced them to move from one area to another in order to find water and save their livestock.

In 2005, for example, the Maasai moved from an area to another one in search of pasture and water for twelve months, until finally the rain started to fall again in March 2006. This entailed adaptation to different ecosystems, different challenges (among which diseases), different weather and change of diet.

This has also damaged the land: Because of the concentration of more livestock on less space, there is more degradation of ecosystems.

Indigenous people are very vulnerable to events which are becoming more and more frequent, such as droughts, floods and famine, and this is due to these people’s historical marginalization and high level of poverty and to the fact that they totally rely on natural resources and fragile ecosystems.
Children are particularly vulnerable to diseases because of their very poor diet.

Te main adaptation practices adopted by the Maasai were to maintain relationships with relatives and friends and healp each other during difficult times;
teaming up with relatives and friends to move livestock, share costs in order to  increase chances of finding pastures;
making sure the livestock are in different places to take advantage of the available but spatially differentiated pastures and water.

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