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Life Giving Salt

Traveling down Ngorongoro Mountain to Olbalbal, I came upon Olendoiye waiting by the side of the road for a lift. He, his wife Nasha, Seina his daughter of ten years and four year old son Lekosan were returning from their “boma” in the highlands of Ngorongoro near the crater rim to their temporary cattle camp in the Olbalbal area.  Olendoiye told me that large numbers of Maasai, while leaving a skeleton crew, mostly old people, at the main village in the high country, trek their herds out onto the plains for three or four months during the rainy season.  He explained that in the Ngorongoro highlands salt is scarce, and without salt the cattle will become sick, no matter how good the grass is.  In the high country, the cattle must be driven into Ngorongoro crater to lick the dried salt on the shores of the salt lake and then driven back out the same day.  This is a difficult trip of many miles for cattle and herdsman since Conservation does not allow the cattle to stay overnight on the crater floor.  Down at Olbalbal and at other places out on the savanna, salt licks are plentiful and constitute a major reason that many Maasai, who normally live in the highlands, choose to spend the wet season out on the plains.  Olendoiye told me that also, tick born diseases are much less of a problem in the low country.  This elder had first driven his cattle down to Olbalbal, built a thorn bush “boma” and then left the herd in the hands of a younger brother.  He had then returned to Olairobi in the high country and was now returning with his two young children and their mother to join the cattle herd below where there would be plenty salt for the cattle and milk for the children.

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