PEOPLES OF WEST KILIMANJARO
West Kilimanjaro is no different to the rest of the world, in that its people and their lifestyles reflect the environment in which they live. Enduimet is as diverse as it is contrasting; ranging from rich, fertile pastures, to arid flatland – each locale dictating a different lifestyle and set of priorities.
The endless flat pans of Sinya sprinkled with salt deposits and dotted with yellow Acacia trees is home to the Maasai. Their cattle coexist with wildlife and drink from the same water sources. Elephants have crossed Sinya to the heights of Kilimanjaro and back for centuries. The Maasai are a bold, free spirited and nomadic people, in which heads of cattle dictate wealth. Here, conflict with wildlife rarely rises.
Southwest, Embolei stands in complete contrast. Rocky outcrops crowned with tuffs of grass like lion’s mane stretch up offering an eagle’s view. Below Maasai villages, sprinkled across the valley make up the community. It’s a valuable viewpoint for the Enduimeti WMA in which it lies and a source of natural minerals, which elephant and larger antelope seek as a supplement in their diets.
Ngasurai is dry savannah, dotted with small Acacia trees that have survived, unthreatened and used for little more than kindle wood and structural support for Maasai huts. Now gangs of city ‘tree poachers’ destroy every Acacia they can lay their hands on to produce charcoal, but the Maasai are fighting back – a fine example of community strength and solidarity in preserving their environment. Groups of Maasai warriors hunting lions, armed with nothing more than shields and spears out to test their bravery was once an age-old custom that had little impact. Now every lion counts.
Ndarakwai highlights the conflicts between modern and old. Grazing cattle and insatiable goats have turned the grasslands into a dustbowl. Yet amidst this catastrophe is a working example of victory in the making. Ndarakwai Ranch spearheads plans to redefine cattle farming with quality versus quantity, allowing wasteland to recover.
Kitanden and Irakiswa are set amongst rolling plains and woodlands. The ‘Kitanden Migratory Corridor’ extends up to the far reaches of Kilimanjaro’s green belt. Kitanden’s southern boundary is home to the Changa tribe – its steady flow of water and rich fertile soil both an agriculturists and wildlife’s paradise.
Intensive efforts by Enduimet’s WMA to preserve its wildlife is the core behind the survival of each and every one of these splendid areas. It is an enormous undertaking, the success of which requires amongst other things, determination and support both locally and worldwide.
By Colleen Hogg
Feb, 2013 – Tanzania