The Maasai are one of many pastoralist groups raising livestock on extensive grazing lands in East Africa. For generations pastoralist groups were subjected to policies and plans calling for settlement and a transition to intensive livestock production based on modern ranching. Once considered inefficient, uneconomical, and ecologically destructive, pastoralism as a livelihood is increasingly viewed as compatible with rangeland management, and an option for preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services in savannah and arid landscapes.
HALI has been working with the Maasai, Barabaig, and Sukuma pastoralist communities in the Ruaha Ecosystem, where Africa's acacia savannas meet the southern miombo woodlands. There pastoralists still graze their animals in open ranges, often through complex land use agreements with local village councils and community forest organizations. With meat demand rising in Africa and the Middle East, pastoral livestock production represents a viable economic and pro-poor development strategy, an opportunity that may strengthen some traditional aspects of pastoral culture and reverse long-standing pressures for settlement. A new modernized pastoralism could emerge, as pastoralists continue to adapt to their surroundings, a major factor in their resilience in areas increasingly impacted by climate variability.
As proof of this versatility, some pastoralists in the Ruaha area are now working with groups like Lion Guardians and the Ruaha Conservation Project to adapt long standing traditions to enhance conservation and livelihood improvement, strengthening the perception of pastoralists as guardians of the range and political advocates, a force recognized this fall when long-standing plans to evict Maasai from traditional lands to establish a hunting concession were overturned by the Tanzanian Prime Minister.
In Ruaha, HALI is working with pastoralist communities like the Maasai to better understand and enhance health for the people and the animals and environment they depend on. This participatory "one health" approach uses research for development, working with pastoralists at the household, pastoralist council, and district levels to identify appropriate solutions supporting the preservation of traditional livelihoods as they adapt to the changing world around them.