Vol. 18, #3
17th… I finally got back to Ngorongoro last Sunday. A half a year is a long time to be away. Lots of babies got born and plenty of people got married since I left. It is quite a task to catch up on everything. I guess the best part of being back is sitting on the front porch and talking with people. One bad thing that has happened is that a warrior was badly gored by a buffalo last week, but he is now off the critical list.
There was no harvest of corn at all this year in the Ngorongoro area and beyond. This has brought great hardship to the Maasai people. The plots of the Maasai are small and don’t produce much in the best of years, but do get them a few weeks further into the dry season without having to buy corn at the trading centers. There was no cushion this year. People are hungry and getting hungrier. The lack of corn has driven the price of what is available to levels, the likes of which no one can remember. When I left at the beginning of March, a four gallon tin of corn cost about one and a half dollars. Today, here in Endulen, a four gallon tin of corn costs over four dollars. The Maasai are being forced to sell precious animals to buy food, animals that represent their final resource. This week the clouds are dark with the promise of rain. People are preparing their small plots for planting and hoping for the best.
19th… Last night a very large leopard got into cattle camp of a neighbor. These camps are temporary affairs that young people put up to take advantage of the grass that has grown during the dry season near water or at the edge of a forest. Here in the Endulen area we have both permanent water and a forest on the slopes of Makorot Mountain. It was cloudy and dark in the night when the leopard came. The people woke at the terrified crying of the cows, calves and goats, but it was too dark to do much. The warriors gave chase as best they could, but the leopard got away, having killed two goats and carried off a third.
20th… In central Maasai country, a couple of hundred miles South of us here at Ngorongoro, water is an ever more critical problem for the Maasai people. Non-Maasai moving into Maasai country disrupt the fragile balance that ensures survival. First the newcomers get permission from the Maasai or local politicians to live in a place. Next, they get permission from the Maasai to share the water. Finally, after some years, they begin to claim that the Maasai cattle are trampling their crops or that the Maasai are disturbing their lives in some other way. They have now gained political influence and power and are able to totally deny the Maasai access to the water. This affects not only the Maasai people’s access to water, but also makes the land for many miles around unusable for grazing.
21st… One of the areas in the Conservation area is experiencing a problem that is prevalent in many places, but has become acute in Ematon. Ematon is on the main road from the hotels to the entrance road into the crater that is also the main drag to Oldupai Gorge and the Serengeti. For some years the teenagers of Ematon, dressed in their traditional finery, have been standing along the road flagging the tourist cars and minibuses down to get their pictures taken for a price. The Conservation authority has tried to control this by encouraging the establishment of “cultural villages” where the tourists can go, take pictures, watch dances, and buy souvenirs. The “cultural villages” have been somewhat of a success, but kids still stand along the road and tourists still stop. This influx of cash has gotten a lot of the young warriors drinking to the extent that we now have a substantial group of 15 to 20 year old alcoholics and many even younger. In addition to beer and commercial gin, locally made gin (read poison) is much in evidence. It is cheap and plentiful. This has become a major problem in the area of Ematon and becoming one in a number of other places here in the Conservation Authority of Ngorongoro.
28th… The rains have not yet come.
Till next month…