THE KITENGELA MAASAI

Approximately 7,000 Maasai live on the Kitengela plains.  Many of them still live in very traditional ways while others combine modern living standards with community traditions and rituals.

The Maasai have always respected wildlife but lions present a special conflict.  In years past, it was the traditional practice for a young man to kill a lion in order to join the ranks of the warriors or moran.

While Maasai today try hard to avoid killing lions, their livestock - which represents their entire wealth - is under constant threat.  During the rains, when wildlife disperses out of Nairobi National Park, the lions follow and a cow or sheep makes for easier prey than a zebra or wildebeest. Despite conservation efforts, lions are sometimes killed by Maasai in an effort to protect their livestock.

In Kitengela, the women make a little money  by selling their beadwork to tourists. Children go to school.  After school, boys help with the livestock while girls help with household chores.  Increasingly, the community is adopting equal rights for girls and boys and abandoning age-old practices, such as female genital mutilation and forced early marriage, which no longer serve the community's interests.  Almost everyone understands that educating a girl is as valuable as educating a boy.

Photos:  Nickson Parmisa, Oscar Mann