This morning, traveling down Mount Kilimanjaro heading back to Maasai country, we passed numerous women making the ten or fifteen-mile trek down the mountain. On asking where they were all going, I was told that they were on their way to cut grass for their family cows.
I discover that there is no more grazing land left on Mount Kilimanjaro, not an inch. Over the last fifty years the Chagga people have become so numerous and the land divided and re-divided among their children and children’s children, that there is no land for further farming, not even a square foot for cattle to graze. A unique solution has been found and one that is very hard on the women of Kilimanjaro. A household may have a cow or two cows, but these are kept in a shed next to the Chagga’s home. Each morning, someone, the lady of the house or an older daughter, never a man, must go down to the grass land many miles distant to cut fodder for the family cow. Sometimes, if finances allow, she will buy a bundle of grass. Some people make their living cutting and selling bundles of grass to women from the mountainside. Then, unusually in the late afternoon, the women will climb the ten or fifteen miles back to the homestead of her family on the mountain. She carries the thirty or forty pound bundle of grass on her head.
Wow! It blows my mind! As someone from the savanna, where grass is usually in plenty, it is hard to take in what these women go through to obtain two or three day’s fodder for a cow.