Making a Modern Pastoral Landscape
In 1992 the only car regularly traveling between Arusha and Loliondo was that of Lazaro Parkipuny, influential and trusted Maasai leader and director of the newly created Maasai NGO KIPOC. The acronym KIPOC stands for Korongoro Integrated People Oriented to Conservation and means “we will recover” in the Maasai language. Parkipuny left national politics in 1990 to start KIPOC, believing that NGOs would provide an important platform to challenge a state apparatus that he considered biased against pastoralists. He told me, “You have to have organizations to mobilize people to take action to solve problems instead of relying on the state. . . . People have the right to get correct information to counter state propaganda.” Registered in 1990, KIPOC was the first NGO in Tanzania dedicated to pastoralists and defending their land rights.
Parkipuny was one of the first Tanzanian Maasai to graduate from the University of Dar es Salaam and earn his master’s degree in sociology. He had also been the first MP for Ngorongoro District, which included the political divisions of Ngorongoro, Loliondo, and Sale. With his experience working on the USAID-funded Maasai Range Project in the 1970s and as MP from 1980 to 1990, Parkipuny had become especially aware of the potential for discord between the different Maasai ethnic groups with distinct territorial affiliations called olosho (described later in this chapter).
One of Parkipuny’s aims for KIPOC was that it advocate for all pastoralists, including all Maasai clans and sections regardless of internal differences—not a straightforward or easy task. The Maasai origin story says that God chose the Maasai and gave them all the cattle in the world.1 Livestock held by others, therefore, was considered stolen property, and the Maasai understood it as well within their rights to take it back. This meant that Maasai were not likely to peacefully coexist with other pastoralists, who they believed a priori had stolen their cattle. The ways in which this origin story was mobilized to justify cattle raids varied at different points in history. Parkipuny believed that the common threat of national land appropriation of rangelands for conservation and agriculture could unite pastoralists and hunter-gatherers, both of which he understood as indigenous people. He knew that mainstream African society misunderstood these groups and that their flexible property regimes, as well as their customs, made these societies easy targets for land dispossession. KIPOC therefore was devoted to “actively participating, through networking, in the worldwide movement of indigenous peoples to make states and mainstream populations respect the fundamental human rights to: (i) maintain their distinct cultural identity, land tenure and benefit from the natural resources that constitute the base of indigenous cultural and environmental integrity.”2 Parkipuny believed that NGOs could help unite the interests of different Maasai groups by focusing on common interests. “Our greatest asset is to realize we are all facing the same problem,” he told me.
I met Parkipuny at the start of my field research, when a friend helped arrange a meeting with him in Arusha. Parkipuny agreed to help me with my study on tourism in Loliondo; if I met him in a month, he would take me to Loliondo. When I met him for the ride in late April 1992 at the Arusha hotel, he told me, “We will have to make one stop on the way.” The stop turned out to be a four-day conference, the Second Annual Pastoralist Rights Conference, where the founding members of KIPOC and other pastoralist leaders from across Tanzania discussed how best to protect their land and natural resources from development schemes aimed at making pastoral land more profitable for the state and foreign investors. Pastoralist leaders were organizing themselves to confront both state-sponsored and privately funded development projects that threatened their land and livelihoods.
At the time I did not grasp the significance of pastoralist leaders from across Tanzania gathering to collectively organize their political tactics. I was just happy to get a ride to the notoriously inaccessible Loliondo area. But after a few days I began to realize that this meeting was a new space for Maasai and other pastoralists to organize and act together. One participant noted that the government-owned technical college where they were meeting, located in the largely pastoralist area of Monduli, had previously trained mostly experts who were not themselves pastoralists experts to facilitate national development plans and priorities. This conference was different. For four days the college was the site of efforts to remake development to serve the interests of pastoralists and other historically marginalized groups. None of the participant’s naively believed that they would be successful overnight. But they were encouraged by the strong showing of pastoralist leaders from across the country and neighboring Kenya and the growing interest from donors to support their efforts.
For me the conference was a crash course in pastoralist history and politics. I quickly learned that the Maasai faced a number of threats to their land. Participants discussed efforts in the 1970s and 1980s by Serengeti National Park and the park’s chief international conservation partner, the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), to expand their control of Maasai land by mandating conservation buffer zones on village lands bordering the park. Maasai and Barabaig leaders also discussed the Tanzania Canada Wheat Program, a project located in the Basotu Plains of Hanang District that alienated forty thousand hectares of prime Barabaig pastureland.3 Between 1978 and 1981, the National Farm and Agriculture Corporation, in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), took this land to grow wheat as part of a national development scheme—another example of state officials seeing pastoralist land as empty and open.
The Hanang case generated considerable attention from human rights organizations (see Lane 1996), and Parkipuny himself played an important role in connecting the case to a pattern of state-pastoralist relationships.4 Parkipuny was not afraid to make his position known. Barabaig leader Charles Tano told me that Parkipuny and a Barabaig leader named Mrumbi had used their connections with the Canadian volunteer service organization CUSO to get invited to a dinner party hosted at the Canadian embassy in Dar es Salaam a few weeks after the Canadian government had finalized plans to fund the wheat project.5 During the dinner, Parkipuny confronted a Canadian diplomat, asking why no one at the party had discussed the conflict between CIDA and the Barabaig people. Parkipuny was known for his confrontational style. In front of Canadian diplomats and senior Tanzanian officials, he turned his private conversation into a public address and accused the Canadian government of financing the “extermination” of the Barabaig people. Soon after the outburst, Parkipuny and Mrumbi were escorted out of the embassy. The next day they were called into the Tanzanian prime minister’s office. The prime minister, familiar with Parkipuny from his time as an MP, warned him to stop harassing guests of the government. Whether Parkipuny’s outburst had any specific effect on the project is not known. However, less than three months after the incident, the Canadian government announced that it was pulling its funding for the Tanzania Canada Wheat Program.6 Perhaps more significantly, Parkipuny made explicit that he saw the connections among foreign donors, investors, and Tanzanian officials as working together to unfairly exploit pastoralists and their lands.
A group of interested scholars and Barabaig leaders also pressured CIDA, working with local and international journalists as well as NGOs, in what became an early example of leveraging the growing strength of civil society to pressure the Tanzanian state. During the conference in 1992, Barabaig leaders spoke about their experiences opposing the state-led development project, giving fellow pastoralist leaders confidence in their ability to challenge the state and win. The meeting participants reflected on their victory and promoted the importance of working with international human rights groups.7
Parkipuny had publicly linked the struggles for pastoral land rights and indigenous rights a few years prior, in a speech given to the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) in Geneva:
The process of alienation of our land and its resources was launched by European colonial authorities at the beginning of this century and has been carried on, to date, after the attainment of national independence. Our cultures and way of life are viewed as outmoded, inimical to national pride and a hindrance to progress. What is more, access to education and other basic services are minimal relative to the mainstream of the population of the countries to which we are citizens in common with other peoples. . . . We do not advocate separatism, but assert the fundamental human right to maintain our cultural identity within the framework of United Nations of Africa. (Parkipuny 1989b)
He gave the speech on August 3, 1989, just two months after the United Nations adopted the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples—the first international convention urging governments to recognize the rights of indigenous people living within the borders of sovereign nation-states.
Parkipuny’s speech was significant for arguing that international rights and protections granted to indigenous people in places like North and South America should extend to pastoralists and hunter-gatherers in Africa.8 For the Maasai to be considered indigenous people, they had to distinguish themselves from other Tanzanians who were also technically indigenous. Unable to claim the position as a “First Nation,” the Maasai people had to illustrate that they were a historically and geographically distinct cultural group and that they were specifically marginalized during Tanzania’s colonial and postcolonial periods. Parkipuny’s success in framing the Maasai as indigenous Africans influenced international human rights organizations, which began to regularly describe the Maasai as indigenous people in the 1990s.9 The international recognition of the Maasai as an indigenous group helped attract funding for Maasai NGOs like KIPOC.
In this chapter, I move between illustrating how ideas about parks, ranches, and villages were imposed on Maasai communities and how those impositions were interpreted, understood, and translated into popular understandings among Maasai from Loliondo. Parkipuny played a critical role in this process as a leading Maasai intellectual who was actively engaging with and representing nationalist policies to international and local audiences. Not only was Parkipuny a national leader and international figure; he was also a significant local leader from Loliondo. His various writings, speeches, and informal conversations left an indelible mark on the symbolic meanings and the material form of Maasai landscapes in Tanzania and particularly in Loliondo.
Part of the challenge of telling any story is to convey not only what is unique about a place but also how those specific qualities have been produced through encounters and interactions with other places, people, and ideas. Such a view of place troubles the binary of the local and the global and the idea that places have natural boundaries. Parkipuny’s own biography illustrates how ideas about what it means to be indigenous or local are formed in relation to other people and places. This chapter frames the histories and geographies of Loliondo that compose the context for the struggles over conservation, development, and social change discussed in later chapters.
Loliondo: The Last Frontier or Postcolonial Artifact
The Loliondo division in Tanzania is the northernmost region of Ngorongoro District, in the Arusha region bordered by Kenya to the north, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) to the south, Serengeti National Park to the west, and Lake Natron in the Rift Valley to the east (see map 1). Loliondo covers 289,800 hectares (2,898 sq km) and has a population of 37,714 according to the 2002 census. Until 2010 Loliondo was made up of eight rural villages that were created under Tanzania’s villagization program between 1974 and 1976 (Århem 1985a; Coulson 1979). Loliondo, Sakala, and Wasso are the more densely populated villages, clustered around the district headquarters and trading centers. They are classified as urban areas and are commonly referred to collectively as Loliondo town. Loliondo’s rural villages are populated almost exclusively by Maasai pastoralists. Six of those villages share a border with Serengeti National Park and overlap with the Loliondo Game Controlled Area (LGCA). The LGCA describes a legal category of land management designating the area as a state-sanctioned space for trophy hunting. Resident hunting is prohibited in GCAs. The area’s two hunting blocks, Loliondo north and south, span the entire LGCA and overlap with six rural Maasai villages. From north to south these villages are Ololosokwan, Soitsambu, Oloipiri, Olorien/Magaiduru, Losoito/Maaloney, and Arash.
References to Loliondo conjure up a particular vision of an African landscape: one of vast acacia-savannah grasslands where Maasai herders graze their cattle surrounded by abundant wildlife that move in and out of the nearby Serengeti National Park. Both pastoralists and wildlife have adapted to the semiarid landscape, with its unpredictable rainfall and frequent droughts. The lack of reliable rainfall, ranging from four hundred to fifteen hundred millimeters annually, makes it difficult to rely solely on agriculture for one’s livelihood. Pastoralists move their herds according to large weather patterns, including the short rains (November–December) and the long rains (March–June), as well as the availability of seasonal water sources and semipermanent rivers. They also must be careful to avoid large wildlife migrations, as many species carry diseases that are easily transmitted to livestock. In particular, Maasai in Loliondo must avoid the short-grass plains in the western extent of their village lands from late January to early March. During that period hundreds of thousands of wildebeest depend on Loliondo’s short-grass plains for giving birth to their calves. Wildebeest carry a lifelong infection that is harmless to them but causes bovine malignant catarrhal fever, a fatal disease for cattle. Livestock are susceptible to the deadly disease when they come in contact with the nasal secretions of wildebeest calves.
Many people first learn of the Maasai from coffee-table books. These heavy tomes, with their glossy images, portray tall Maasai in their vibrant red blankets living in open grasslands dotted with mud huts. The Maasai are revered in the West for their independence and perceived resistance to Western norms and values. Ironically, the Maasai have often resisted this representation, which situates them out of place and out of time. It is precisely the idea that the Maasai lack history and modern forms of agency that often enables others to speak for them. If coffee-table books are the Holy Grail of documenting indigenous cultures for popular consumption, then Loliondo is the taken-for-granted or “natural” setting of such exotic cultures within Tanzania. Invariably, when I told people I was doing research in Loliondo, their reactions reflected these stereotypes:
Loliondo is where the last real Maasai are.
They have not been polluted like other Maasai.
They still live on milk and blood.
They respect their elders.
They don’t send their children to school. The boys just want to be warriors.
They don’t farm or eat wild animals. They respect their culture.10
These descriptions came from urban and rural Tanzanians, foreign expatriates, researchers, tourists, government officials, and even Maasai people from outside Loliondo. I was intrigued by the consistent description of Loliondo as an authentic pastoral landscape and of the Maasai who live there as examples of iconic pastoralists.
After sharing their impressions with me, people usually took the time to expand on why Loliondo was such a unique place. It was unfailingly described as frontier-like in its culture, economy, and politics. I was told over and over that Loliondo’s qualities were the result of its isolated location and its residents’ limited exposure to the modern world. For most of the people I spoke with, Loliondo represented a place that had been relatively unchanged by history. Despite the problematic notion that a landscape spanning what are now two separate nations, Kenya and Tanzania, and including much of the territory that today is inside Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area could have escaped the profound influence of colonialism, nationalism, and the global reach of conservation, I wasn’t surprised by the stories I heard. Indeed, I was initially attracted to Loliondo precisely because of its remote location and the opportunity it offered to spend time with pastoralists who still practiced their traditional ways of life.
Rather than the final frontier passively awaiting colonization, however, Loliondo’s history is one of intensive involvement and action in local, national, and international politics. For decades, the Maasai resisted colonization and investment that would have divided their land. Conforming to their own national development policies, the Maasai living in Kenya to the north had already divided their land into group ranches. Pastoralists in central and southern Tanzania had lost much of their land to peasant farmers and to industrial agriculture. It is difficult to understand Loliondo today without recognizing how the Maasai have interacted with national and transnational policies and practices of conservation, nationalism, and development.
As a cultural geographer and political ecologist, I am interested in the ways that history shapes the meanings of places and how those places in turn structure social relationships. Political ecologists are interested in how struggles over property rights and land use remake the meanings of landscapes and the cultural understandings and practices of subjects. Building on Dennis Cosgrove’s (1984) pioneering work on landscape and ideology, Rod Neumann explains that “struggles over meaning are simultaneously struggles over social identity, belonging and exclusion, and land rights and use” (2011, 845). Such a focus on the discursive production of landscapes in no way averts attention from the material conditions produced through contests over meaning and value. As Neumann puts it, “what is at stake in struggles over landscape meaning are people’s livelihoods in place” (2011, 845). Neumann’s book on the history and politics of conservation in Tanzania, Imposing Wilderness (1998), helped define the field of political ecology. By historicizing the creation of national parks in Tanzania, he showed how Western conservation ideas and ideologies had literally remade landscapes and subjects. He built on classic work in political ecology that sought to locate rural land users in larger historical and political economic structures.11 He demonstrated how representations of rural Tanzanians had shifted from portrayals as land managers to land degraders and poachers. My work builds on Neumann and other political ecologists by looking specifically at the material and ideological context of neoliberalization, in which the longer struggles over conservation, land rights, and citizenship have recently unfolded.
When I arrived in Loliondo in May 1992, it did appear in many ways like a remnant from the past. It took most of the afternoon and night to get there, and the final few hours of the drive were across the dusty tracks carved into the grass plains. Zebras, gazelles, hartebeest, impala, and hyenas were a few of the animals I saw roaming the plains that first night from the back of Parkipuny’s Land Cruiser. Without fences, large-scale agriculture, or ranches, the boundaries of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area seemed to blur seamlessly into the rangelands and Maasai villages in Loliondo.
At the time of my visit, more Maasai in Loliondo maintained their livelihoods through livestock production than in any other area in the country. The vast majority of village land was dedicated to rangelands for pastoralism, and relatively little land was used for agriculture.12 The Loliondo Maasai continued to prioritize ceremonial activities and coming-of-age celebrations that could occupy weeks and months with preparations and festivities. Traditional leaders maintained a strong voice in decisions about marriages, conflicts, and regulating access to natural resources across different villages and Maasai ethnic groups. Communal livestock ownership among elder men and their sons, strict control of marriage customs by elders, and a relatively low level of migration to other areas were practices often deemed by state officials, development experts, and other Tanzanian citizens to be culturally and politically backward. But despite these perceptions, Loliondo was as modern a place as any other.
Loliondo anchored an important regional livestock trade, linking markets in Kenya and Tanzania (Letara, MacGregor, and Hesse 2006). The robust livestock economy provided opportunities for Maasai youth to engage in livestock-related businesses, which paid for the elaborate ceremonial activities that were associated with tradition and backward-looking attachments to the past. The political, economic, and cultural makeup of Loliondo was largely a product of efforts to protect pastoral resources from alienation, rather than of isolation or irrational attachments to tradition.13 Loliondo has long been one of the most organized and active regions advocating for the rights of pastoralists.14 It is through political leadership and social mobilization, and not by chance, that Loliondo has endured as a viable pastoral economy and community.
KIPOC is often credited with being the first Maasai NGO and leading a trend in the rapid development of Maasai NGOs.15 Place-based and ethnic-oriented NGOs were new to Tanzania when KIPOC was founded in 1990, and the group represented a new institutional arrangement for a pastoralist social movement. Many of the founding members of KIPOC had been instrumental in fighting against government policies in the 1970s and 1980s that sought to alienate land from pastoralists for large-scale agricultural schemes, as well as for smaller-scale migrant farmers seeking new land. They built KIPOC to continue to fight against government plans to take pastoral rangeland for national parks, conservation areas, and agriculture.16 Despite the loss of important grazing and watering resources that had been appropriated within the restricted boundaries of Serengeti National Park, Loliondo leaders were perhaps the most successful group of pastoralists in East Africa at protecting large areas of communal village grazing land.
“Conservation Are the People Who Stole Our Land”: Framing Loliondo as a Conservation Enclave
The Second Annual Pastoralist Rights Conference held in May 1992 ended late on a Wednesday afternoon. Rather than spend one more night at the technical college, Parkipuny declared, “It is time to go.” Along with twelve Maasai men and two women, I squeezed into the back of Parkipuny’s white Land Cruiser. The road from Arusha to Loliondo passes through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a national protected area created along with Serengeti National Park in 1951. All vehicles—those carrying tourists, cargo, and less frequently Tanzanian nationals in buses or private vehicles—are required to pass through the NCA gate before 6:00 p.m., when the park rangers close the gate for the night. There was no way we could make it by then. We arrived at the gate at 7:30 p.m. A ranger immediately recognized Parkipuny, and the two men exchanged a few words. This was not the first time Parkipuny had arrived after the official curfew. Another guard lifted the iron bar to let us through. As we passed, Parkipuny yelled back to me in perfect English, “This is my home. No one can tell me when I can or can’t go home.”
After nine months in Tanzania, my Kiswahili was improving. My understanding of Maa, the Maasai language, however, was limited to a few basic greetings and words. As the conversation in the car grew louder and more animated, I could make out only one word: “conservation.” I asked the man sitting next to me what they were saying about conservation. As the car hit a particularly wet patch in the road, he grabbed my arm for support and said to me, “Conservation are the people who stole our land.” In the car that night, everyone was referring to the NCA, one of Tanzania’s most important conservation areas and tourism destinations, as “conservation.” I would later learn that Maasai frequently use the English word “conservation” to describe the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), the governmental agency responsible for managing the NCA.17 The reference to “conservation” in that night’s animated talk extended to all government agencies and their employees responsible for conservation programs such as the Tanzania National Parks Association (TANAPA), which oversees the country’s park system, and the Wildlife Division (WD), which is responsible for managing safari and resident hunting.
Loliondo has been significantly shaped by colonial and postcolonial conservation ideologies and practices.18 Just prior to independence in 1961, colonial officers convinced Maasai leaders to exchange all rights to the Serengeti plains for secure access to the Ngorongoro highlands and crater. In 1959 Serengeti National Park was created, paving the way for the “fortress conservation” model of wildlife management that promoted the idea that firm boundaries were necessary to separate land for conservation from land for people and their livelihood activities.19
The creation of Serengeti National Park and the NCA has been chronicled elsewhere.20 My aim here is to highlight how promises to Maasai communities have been consistently broken in the name of conservation (map 5). This history has not only made the Maasai skeptical of conservation agencies and agendas but has also shaped how they see current conservation reforms aimed at incorporating communities into conservation management and planning.
The First Maasai Land Grab
During my field research, I often started interviews by asking Maasai in Loliondo to tell me about Serengeti National Park. Invariably I was told a version of the popular origin story for the park, which goes like this: There was a German man who wanted to keep lions. He asked Maasai elders if they would give him some land to keep his lions. They agreed and gave him some land near an area east of Ololosokwan village called Lobo. When a group of elders went to visit the man, they discovered that he had taken more land for his lions. Each time the elders went to visit him, he had expanded the area for his lions. Eventually the government used this as an excuse to create Serengeti National Park.
Anyone familiar with the history of conservation in northern Tanzania will recognize the central characters in this story. The popular version shares several important elements with the actual creation of the park. In the story, the Maasai agree to give up land for something they don’t necessarily value: protecting lions.21 They find that the European man with his curious interest in lions continues to take more and more land without permission. The state steps in on behalf of the German man and his lions to fix the arrangement with laws and guns. The Maasai lose access to their land and important resources for their livestock, while others, often foreigners, pay the government to see the man’s lions. While many Maasai are well aware of other forces at work in the creation of the park, they continue to tell this origin story, believing that it captures the injustices and ongoing threats posed by conservation. The region has a long history of conservation and the creation of a network of national protected areas that have gradually eroded customary land-use practices and rights.
In the late 1840s and then again the 1880s, a rinderpest epizootic killed up to 90 percent of wildlife and livestock in what is now northern Tanzania. When the Germans took control of Tanganyika in 1885—the former East African country that together with the island of Zanzibar would become Tanzania after independence—one of the resources they were interested in was the valuable commercial by-product of hunting, ivory. Soon after colonizing the country, the Germans created regulations to protect the remaining wildlife and regulate its use for hunting.22 Colonial laws effectively banned customary hunting, requiring local people to apply for a license to hunt. According to historians, “the result of these measures was to convert, within the first decade of colonial rule, wildlife from a locally used and customarily managed component of the natural resource base, to a resource which Europeans largely possessed exclusive legal access to.”23 Beyond controlling the choices and behaviors of individuals, the German rulers reorganized the nation’s territory, demarcating specific places of high value for wild game. By 1913 German authorities had created fourteen game reserves for hunting. The areas spanned some thirty thousand square kilometers, or 3 percent of Tanganyika’s territory.24 Local people were not prevented from living in the reserves, but their rights to use wildlife in the areas were severely limited. This was an early attempt to assert centralized control over what had previously been under local customary authority.
After World War I, the British took control of Tanganyika from Germany as a League of Nations protectorate. The Land Ordinance of 1923 gave the British Crown control over all property and severely weakened customary property rights and local institutions that regulated access to resources.25 The British built on the German efforts to regulate and manage wildlife, adding specific rules governing who could hunt and where. They implemented game ordinances in 1921, 1940, and 1951, adding to the German-created network of protected areas by demarcating several additional game reserves throughout the country. In 1928 the Ngorongoro Crater was declared a hunting reserve, and in 1929 an area encompassing much of the present-day Serengeti National Park was declared the Serengeti Closed Reserve (see Shetler 2007). These policies reinforced the idea that in order to protect nature, it needed to be identified as valuable and separated from people who could do it harm.26 However, up until 1930, strict separation of people and wildlife was not enforced.
By 1930 the British government had established a network of game reserves with more-substantial restrictions on settlement, cultivation, and hunting. These included reserves in the Selous, Mount Meru, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. Neumann (1998) has shown that colonial officers, whose primary mandate was bureaucratic administration and tax collection, faced a challenge in balancing conservation interests and local agrarian production. As the direct liaisons with native communities, these officers wanted to avoid policies that would generate local hostility toward them. However, by the 1930s pressure from European conservation organizations was beginning to outweigh the concerns of colonial officers in outposts like Loliondo. In 1933 the British government passed the Convention for the Protection of the Flora and Fauna of Africa, which called for the creation of national parks in Africa. For the first time in Tanganyika’s history, wildlife preservation would take precedent over local livelihoods.
The Game Ordinance of 1940, which declared much of the present-day Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area a single park, marked a new period of conservation legislation and management. Despite the ordinance, local people maintained some customary land rights to the protected area and in many instances limited rights to hunt and gather. The Maasai living in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Loliondo were also becoming wary of what they saw as excessive colonial power over their lives. After expressing concerns through their leaders and representatives, the Maasai were repeatedly assured that the creation of a park covering both the Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro highlands would not impinge on their land use or rights.27 Over the next decade, however, government actions would provide ample evidence that conservation and national economic interests would supersede Maasai interests in the Serengeti and the NCA.28 Restrictions on movement and settlement, as well as on burning and hunting, were eventually followed by a ban on all agriculture in the area in 1954.29 Although the Maasai depended mainly on livestock for their livelihoods, small-scale agriculture was becoming an important aspect of their household production,30 and the ban caused significant unrest and protest. British policies promoting conservation over pastoralism in the NCA created significant tension in the relationship between the Maasai and the colonial authorities. These local conflicts and the growing independence movement in the country pushed the colonial government to act.31
In 1959, during the waning years of British rule in Tanganyika, the colonial authorities negotiated a treaty with Maasai leaders.32 The British proposed two protected areas, promising that in one of them Maasai pastoralist livelihoods would take precedence over wildlife conservation. The original Serengeti reserve was divided into two areas: Serengeti National Park, previously the Western Serengeti of the original reserve, including the Serengeti plains and several key permanent water sources; and the NCA, including the Ngorongoro highlands and crater. Under the arrangement, Maasai leaders agreed that the Maasai people would leave the new Serengeti Park, giving up all their rights to the area in exchange for permanent residence in the NCA.33
The NCA was designated as a mixed-use conservation area where pastoralism and conservation would coexist, with Maasai rights superseding wildlife conservation. Colonial authorities assured Maasai leaders that they would be “permitted to continue to follow or modify their traditional way of life subject only to close control of hunting” in the area.34 One of the selling points of the deal was that the government would invest in social programs such as health care, veterinary services, and transportation, as well as subsidizing the costs of basic provisions like maize, sugar, and tea. The government also promised to develop new water sources to compensate for the lost access to water in the Serengeti.35 Exchanging selected land-use access for the promise of much-needed services appealed to some Maasai leaders at the time.
In a speech to the Maasai Federal Council in August 1959, the governor of Tanganyika reiterated the centrality of Maasai land rights in the new area: “I should like to make it clear to you all that it is the intention of the Government to develop the Crater [NCA] in the interests of the people who use it. At the same time, the Government intends to protect the game animals in the area, but should there be any conflict between the interests of the game and the human inhabitants, those of the latter must take precedence.”36 Proposing the NCA as a place where the interests of the Maasai, wildlife, and the state were fused together was an attempt to reframe the relationship between the Maasai and nature.
However, by 1975 the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority had banned all agriculture in the NCA. In two decades, the Maasai living near the Serengeti and in the NCA saw their ability to practice pastoralism significantly reduced, which brought increased poverty and called into question the Maasai future in northern Tanzania. According to Kaj Århem, in Pastoral Man in the Garden of Eden: The Maasai of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania (1985b), cattle per capita declined from thirteen in 1960 to seven in 1977. This decline was met with an increase in the number of small stock per family, including sheep and goats, from eight to fifteen during the same period. The shift to small stock was one strategy used by the Ngorongoro Maasai to maintain the necessary milk supply to feed their families. The practice reflected an overall decline in available milk for each household, as well as a reduced market value of a family’s overall livestock holdings.
The intensifying restrictions on pastoralist land use in the NCA became a touchstone for the newly independent nation of Tanzania. Research on the Maasai living in the NCA in the mid-1980s drew international attention and established a growing literature linking the NCA with calls to more thoroughly incorporate local and indigenous people into conservation planning and management. As the projects and literature involving community-based conservation (CBC) expanded throughout the 1990s, the NCA became an often-cited example of the need for integrated conservation and development.37 Internationally, the NCA became a recognized model of a multiple-use conservation area supporting wildlife and rural people. Locally, in the Loliondo region, it came to symbolize the loss of pastoralist land and rights through state-led conservation. The creation of Serengeti National Park and the NCA influenced a regional understanding of power that fused international conservation, a discourse of modernization, and the emerging state interests.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and primary tourist destination in Tanzania, the NCA continues to be seen as a model of integrated conservation and development. But for many Maasai it is a failed experiment that only proves that the power of state and conservation interests override those of cultural groups like the Maasai. The Maasai often characterize the allocation of land for conservation and the eventual creation of Serengeti National Park and the NCA as a callous effort by the state to dispossess them of their land, and any conservation effort launched in northern Tanzania must confront this ongoing legacy. For many Maasai in Loliondo, the struggle over the NCA continues to define their marginal position as citizens and their lack of trust in state institutions to promote and protect their rights.
Making Pastoralists into Ranchers
One government strategy to curtail Maasai land use was to replace the seminomadic Maasai system of grazing with ranching associations. This idea was first posed in a report published by the USAID mission to Tanganyika in 1963.38 The report suggested that “Ranching Associations” could serve as a useful “device for creating units with whom the Government could deal, and in whom title to land could be vested.”39 The report, written by Leland Fallon, a range scientist working for the USAID mission to East Africa, was vague on the details of establishing or managing the ranching associations but suggested radical transformations for Maasai pastoralists and rangelands. It recommended that the Maasai transition from subsistence to commercial producers, with the hopeful prediction that “someday undoubtedly, the Masai rangelands, [would] be supplying high quality fresh meat to European and other world markets.”40
The U.S. range scientists working under the USAID mission used a popular model for measuring carrying capacity of rangelands at the time. The model was based on the carrying capacity of livestock units, and the scientists equated the impact of one bull to two heifers to five sheep, and so on. The research made assumptions about the relationship between pastoralists and land based on models that assumed an open-access system of grazing. Fallon (1963), for example, argued that common pool management—which was mistakenly assumed to be the Maasai system—was inefficient and environmentally destructive.41 A similar critique of pastoralists was codified in ecologist Garret Hardin’s (1968) article in the journal Science, “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968). The tragedy that Hardin described was the inevitable depletion and destruction of resources when a lack of property rights undermine incentives to manage resources sustainably for future use. Ironically, this critique of market rationality was misused to characterize the Maasai grazing system, which was highly dependent on negotiated social arrangements governing access to territory and property rights. Hardin’s proposed solution to the tragedy of the commons was to impose private-property rights, in order to solve what he saw as the “free rider” problem.
In 1964, the same year that Tanganyika formed its union with Zanzibar to become the United Republic of Tanzania, the newly independent government established the Range Development and Management Act. The legislation, based largely on the Fallon report’s recommendations, spelled out a plan to transform pastoralists into modern ranchers by creating ranching associations. The first pilot ranching association in Kolomonik was started in 1966, near the Maasai district headquarters in Monduli, about 320 kilometers south of Loliondo. The Ministry of Agriculture was responsible for the project, and the initial government investment of one hundred thousand dollars was used to build two cattle dips and a pipeline to carry water to the area.
After less than one year, the new ranch faced many challenges. Ironically, the project exacerbated many of the problems it was meant to solve.42 The new facilities allowed cattle to graze on arid areas longer than previously possible in the seminomadic system. The drilling of boreholes and development of other water sources enabled more-concentrated grazing for the ranch members. The water sources also attracted cattle from outside the ranching associations, contributing to high concentrations of cattle and considerable overgrazing. The government was unable or unwilling to invest more resources in expanding the water development further afield to prevent the overgrazing. Most association members abandoned the project within the first year.43
Foreign and national development experts saw the failure of Kolomonik as a problem of capacity, resources, and training. In 1970 the USAID agreed to take over the financing and managing of Kolomonik and to expand the “promising” development model to form other ranching associations.44 The USAID signed an agreement with the Tanzanian government for a ten-year project called the Maasai Livestock Development and Range Management Project (MLDRMP). The goals of the project included establishing new ranching associations and helping the members plan and build water and cattle dip infrastructure, as well as market their livestock. Five range development experts from the United States were hired to oversee the project, which initially consisted of managing technical construction projects requiring heavy machinery imported from the United States. They constructed dams, dug boreholes, cleared bush, and built roads. They also provided funding for thirty Tanzanians to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States and then to return home to take over the project.45
The stated goal of the MLDRMP was “to assist the Government of Tanzania to achieve its objective of self-sufficiency and an exportable surplus to earn foreign exchange in the livestock sector.”46 The project had two primary objectives: create better infrastructure such as wells, pipes, and troughs to manage and distribute water; and establish cooperative ranching associations, which would be responsible for implementing and managing the new infrastructure. Technology was a prerequisite for change, but according to Allan Hoben, so-called cultural factors were the biggest impediment: “The primary factors inhibiting changing and delaying the transformation are basically cultural and sociological rather than technical” (1976, 29). The report went on to discuss how the MLDRMP had to be sensitive to the social and cultural context to allow the Maasai to adapt to the new technology “at minimum social costs and outside interference.” Evaluations of the project repeatedly called for adapting to the local context. Adaptation, however, mostly meant the Maasai adapting to the program, not the other way around. The inability of the ranching associations to maintain their target quotas of livestock levels was a constant source of frustration for the USAID technical staff.
Parkipuny studied the project for his master’s thesis at the University of Dar es Salaam and observed, “The associations have not been able to regulate livestock numbers to the quotas that the rangeland can support. This is because no Maasai will really lend a hand in keeping out the livestock of his kinsmen or neighbors from using water or dips simply because he happens to possess a title.”47 Parkipuny believed that the MLDRMP was out of sync with Maasai society and that no amount of material resources could compensate for its flawed design. The project faced numerous challenges, including a delay in the development of water systems and cattle dip facilities. Though the project had gained initial support from Maasai leaders, the lack of water made the grazing plans untenable.
A divide emerged within the project staff between technical versus social priorities and strategies. The range scientists were concerned mainly with developing the livestock industry and, unlike the social scientists, did not grasp the overall social context or pastoralists’ dependence on livestock as a livelihood and not simply as income. Such a split “implied that any kind of work on the human aspects was to be handled by the project sociologist and was merely in order to clear the ground for the principle objective, the development of the livestock industry.”48 The focus on developing a national industry versus local livelihoods would continue to cause problems for the MLDRMP. Even after convincing several ranching associations that equipment delays were not deliberate acts but rather bureaucratic mishaps, the foreign experts’ failure to grasp the ecological, economic, and social relations that sustained pastoralism led to antagonism between project staff and Maasai residents.
After ten years, the MLDRMP ran its course, and the ranching associations were disbanded. In the end, the project failed miserably to achieve its goals, but like many development interventions it did have lasting if unintended effects on Maasai development. The legacy of ranching associations and the MLDRMP led many Maasai to associate development with false promises and the veiled attempt to appropriate local resources for national goals. One of the reasons the ranching associations struggled was their ambiguous relation to the government’s villagization campaign.
Villages: Progressive African Communalism
In 1967 the president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, spelled out his vision for development in the Arusha Declaration. According to the plan, Tanzania was compelled to overcome dependence on foreign capital and industry by producing food crops. “This is in fact the only road through which we can develop our country,” Nyerere noted. “In other words, only by increasing our production of these things can we get more food and more money for every Tanzanian.”49 How would an agrarian country, which had been brought into the international order of trade as a primary commodity producer of such crops as sisal, cotton, coffee, and tea, become self-sufficient? Nyerere believed that the country had to scale up its production by organizing agrarian collectives as central sites of state-controlled production. These collectives would be known as “villages,” invoking his own nostalgic belief in an authentic African community that was destroyed during colonialism. Villages would provide shared labor and collective property for more-efficient production. They would also become access points for state extension services, marketing infrastructure, and government regulation. The village was the centerpiece of Nyerere’s plan to build an independent agrarian nation.50
Based on this one-size-fits-all policy, villages were created throughout the country. The program was controversial for a number of reasons, including its forcible relocation of people to concentrate populations even if it meant moving them to less productive areas. Notwithstanding the problems of implementation throughout the country, the abstract model of planned villages was especially incompatible with pastoralist production. Pastoralists depended on dispersed population centers to maximize unpredictable and unevenly distributed resources like grass, salt, and water for their livestock. The disparities between the national village model and the realities of pastoral livelihoods in semiarid rangelands looked like a disaster before ever getting off the ground. Nevertheless, convinced that pastoralism was an outdated cultural system of production, many government officials and expert development advisors believed that concentrating pastoralists into villages would facilitate a transition to agriculture and intensive livestock keeping.
In another speech that same year, 1967, called “Socialism and Rural Development,” Nyerere explained the theoretical underpinnings of village-based national development. He described three guiding principles, which were also his basic assumptions about traditional African life. These were respect, common property, and work. Discussing respect, he observed, “There was a minimum below which no one could exist without disgrace to the whole family.”51 He then described how common property formed the base of the moral African community: “No-one could go hungry while others hoarded food, and no-one could be denied shelter if others had space to spare. . . . Inequalities existed, but they were tempered by comparable family or social responsibilities, and they could never become gross and offensive to the social equality which was at the basis of the communal life.”52 Collective labor, for Nyerere, was the foundation for development. “Everyone had an obligation to work,” he noted. “Every member of the family, and every guest who shared in the right to eat and have shelter, took it for granted that he had to join in whatever work had to be done.”53
To these strengths of traditional African communalism, Nyerere added what he believed were the key impediments of the traditional system that prevented society from reaching its potential. These were the role of women and poverty. Nyerere recognized the role of women as the core inequality in most Tanzanian households and communities. His recognition of social inequality represented a radical break with maintaining colonial systems of indirect rule as a path toward independent national development. He asserted, “It is impossible to deny that women did, and still do, more than their fair share of the work in the fields and in the homes. By virtue of their sex they suffered from inequalities which had nothing to do with their contribution to the family welfare.”54 Changing this situation, however, would prove difficult to legislate.
The self-sufficient village would not only overcome inequalities based on race, sex, and age, according to Nyerere it would reverse the cycle of poverty all too common in African societies. At odds with many of Nyerere’s other writings on imperialism and the impoverishing forces of international trade and primary commodities export, his analysis of village poverty targeted more-local forces. He noted, “Certainly there was an attractive degree of economic equality [in traditional peasant African societies], but it was equality at a low level. For there was nothing inherent in the traditional system, which caused this poverty; it was the result of two things only. The first was ignorance, and the second was the scale of operations.”55 By establishing individual ignorance and inefficient scale of production as the primary impediments to development, Nyerere could advocate for achievable goals to reverse Tanzania’s poverty. He concluded by saying that “the three principles of mutual respect, sharing of joint production, and work by all . . . can also be a basis for economic development if modern knowledge and modern techniques of production are used.”56
Along with his moral analysis of African social change, Nyerere added a spatial argument for achieving development. The village was the organizing principle that would allow socialism to flourish by providing needed services to localities, as well as functioning as the center of democratic political participation. He explained how the relation between proximity and politics would ideally work:
National defence, education, marketing, health, communications, large industries—for all these things and many more, all of Tanzania has to work together. The job of Government would therefore be to help these self-reliant communities and to organize their co-operation with others.
An agricultural field worker, for example, would be teaching new techniques to about 40 people together, instead of one family at a time; he could thus spend more time and give more expert help to the village farm than he could ever to any individual farmer. Or, again, Government could not hope to give a water pump to every separate house in a scattered community, nor provide the miles of pipes which might be necessary in order to service one isolated house.
The country would also become more democratic through the organization of ujamaa communities. The Members of Parliament, or of the Local Council, would more easily be able to keep informed of the people’s wishes and their ideas on national issues if they were living together than if the people did not get a daily opportunity to discuss important issues together.57
Nyerere’s plans often turned on the ability of state officials to transform the abstract space of development plans into the lived realities of Tanzanians.
As of 2012, there were ten thousand registered villages in Tanzania. None of them existed before 1975, when the policy creating villages as legal governmental authorities was enacted.58 Villages were created under a variety of circumstances, with the nuclei of many of them coming from social or geographical units that had persisted from precolonial times. Villagization ignored that colonial administration had rarely been organized around these small settlements (rather colonial authorities had governed through district administrators).59
Tanzania’s program of villagization has received considerable criticism for its heavy-handed tactics to forcibly move rural people, alienating them from their lands and the ecological contexts they knew best.60 At the time, however, many believed that villagization would help Tanzania overcome almost a century of colonial rule. But despite the initial enthusiasm for villagization among government officials and national intellectuals, the task of transforming pastoralists into villagers remained one of the more complicated challenges for the government. Could pastoralists be worked into a national program designed primarily for agricultural communities? This question would become a source of struggle for the Maasai throughout Tanzania.
Villagization in Maasailand: Operation Imparnati
Maasailand was not included in the original phase of villagization. Pastoralists were considered too problematic to warrant concentrated government efforts, and resources were deemed better spent on more compliant agricultural communities. However, in the second phase of villagization the program became mandatory, and regional administrations controlled implementation. In September 1974, Operation Imparnati, or “permanent settlements,” was launched in Monduli District, an area with a large population of Maasai pastoralists just north of Arusha. By the middle of 1975, there were nine registered villages with a total population of approximately two thousand people. A year later, 36 percent of the residents of Kiteto District (south of Arusha) and 31 percent of Monduli residents had been resettled in twenty-seven villages. Unlike the majority of villages created under the Ujamaa program, the government specifically designated villages in Maasailand as either livestock or agricultural development villages. Distinguishing a dominant village mode of production can be interpreted as a way for the government to limit the area dedicated to livestock production.61
There was little resistance to the initial stages of villagization. The Maasai did not fear that the village would prevent them from carrying out their economic activities across the new village boundary. They believed that once the government officials left, they would be able to carry out their activities as they had previously. One of the Arusha regional officials noted, “The pastoralists were easier to deal with than the cultivators.”62 For many Maasai the main incentive to participate was the belief that they would gain clear land title by doing so.
It took four years for Operation Imparnati to reach Loliondo. In 1978 regional officials arrived to demarcate new villages. Most of the newly created villages were based on existing localities and their boundaries (map 6). Unlike the Monduli Maasai, who thought that the villages might help them defend grazing land from agricultural immigrants, Loliondo residents associated the program with the government’s strong-arm efforts to take away resources. Only three years earlier, in 1975, the government had imposed an agricultural ban on the Maasai living in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, restricting their ability to supplement their livestock economy with increasingly vital food crops such as maize and beans. This contributed to an ongoing pattern of false promises and pastoralist disenfranchisement. However, like other Maasai, Loliondo residents accepted the villagization program as inevitable and waited for officials to leave in order to resume their normal activities.
Parkipuny and Villagization
Reflecting on villagization almost thirty years later, in 2003, Parkipuny expressed his belief that it was one of many misguided state development schemes. He believes that Operation Imparnati was unsuccessful because national political leaders and state bureaucrats were ineffective. But despite his resentment, he does not credit the program with radically altering Maasai life in Loliondo. Although the Maasai were forced to create villages in Loliondo, as elsewhere, Parkipuny told me that the program had minimal influence on people’s lives: “Villagization was a national policy, and it would have been futile to try to resist it. But what does it really mean in terms of land use?” He then turned and gestured toward an imaginary map. “If you look at a map, this mbuga [plain] has been divided into villages. Each village stretches to Serengeti, but when it comes to land use, grazing rights, the division separating one village from another is a formality. When it comes to salt licks like here, these village boundaries disappear.”
Parkipuny put forward two arguments explaining why Operation Imparnati had minimal influence on Maasai production and social relations. First, villages failed to supplant traditional forms of regulating access to resources. And second, even if some government officials had the best interests of the Maasai in mind when creating the policy, the overly bureaucratic and inflexible structure of the program prevented it from achieving its goals. In his article “Some Crucial Aspects of the Maasai Predicament,” Parkipuny writes,
Beyond the drawing board stage, the implementation of the operation was not a mass transformation campaign. It was precisely an “Operation”—a programme implemented by the government and ruling party officials—and not a systematic programme to enable the people, be they in Maasailand or elsewhere in the country, to undertake their own all-round development. . . . Thus even those villages like Upper Monduli established nearly three years ago . . . have to await the time when everybody else in the district has moved into a village before the next undefined step is taken by the officials at the district headquarters. (1979, 154)
Parkipuny goes on to note that the project failed to achieve any of its goals not only because of misguided bureaucrats but also due to government planners’ misunderstanding of the pastoralist mode of production.
Finally there is a gross failure to comprehend the essential need to separate two basic requirements: the need to concentrate human population to facilitate the procurement of social services and provide viable units of production and cooperation, on the one hand, and, on the other, the need to spread out the livestock population to safeguard the range land from the destructive power of large herds (Parkipuny 1979, 155).
His experience with implementing villagization policies gave Parkipuny firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of government. Rather than give him hope of transforming the system from within, the episode strengthened his antinationalist leanings. In place of the abstract model of the village, Parkipuny advocated formalizing the role for traditional institutions to govern land, resources, and rights in Maasai areas. Parkipuny (1979) invoked a populist vision of socialism to challenge a scientific nationalist socialism and advocate for what today we might call indigenous rights. At the time he advocated Maasai rights through his particular understanding of populist socialism.
In Parkipuny’s article, which reads like a pastoralist manifesto of sorts, we can see the seeds of an argument linking the village as a state institution with a transnational understanding of Maasai rights: “The people should not be made to sit back and let the government do whatever it wants. Since the well-being of the people must be the purpose of development, they must take control of the situation by creating their own socialist institutions for local management of the process of production, without being overpowered by the centre’s requirements of uniformity.”63 Whether Maasai villages could someday become a new “socialist institution” is still an open question and is in many ways at the heart of this book’s inquiry.
Did Villagization Remake Pastoralism?
What lasting effects did villagization have on Maasai social and ecological relations? Experts disagree on the significance of villagization in shaping Maasai social, economic, and ecological relations. Daniel Ndagala argues that villagization was the final act in an ongoing effort to settle pastoralists and bring them in line with the goals of a modern African nation:
Unlike other districts in which [villagization] was known under individual district names such as Operation Mbulu, Operation Hanang, etc; the resettlement program in Maasailand was termed “Operation Imparnati.” The Maasai word imparnati (sing. emparnat) means “permanent habitations.” Permanence of habitation was emphasized here probably because of the belief in several quarters that one of the main snags in Maasai development then was nomadism. This, of course . . . is a misconception of pastoral problems. The Maasai have been undergoing sedentarization for several decades so that Operation Imparnati was just an acceleration and completion of that process. (1982, 29)
In contrast, Katherine Homewood and Alan Rodgers assert that although people may live, grind their maize, or go to school in particular villages, as an institution for regulating people’s economic relations and social activities, the village is rather insignificant:
Overall, these “villages” have had little lasting impact on patterns of settlement and seasonal movement, nor do they correspond with traditional economic or leadership structures. Individual families still live in widely dispersed bomas [homesteads where several families live together with their livestock]. Seasonal movements crosscut village boundaries and different families using the same village in the dry season may move to different wet season pastures. . . . Alongside the imposed village structure, the traditional social systems of section, clan, age-set and boma still govern NCA [Ngorongoro Conservation Authority] Maasai access to resources and form the basis of their risk avoidance strategies and of their efficient livestock management in an unpredictable environment. (1991, 56)
Perhaps the discrete regional focus of each study influenced the authors’ perspectives. Ndagala (1982) was writing primarily about Maasai villages in Monduli District, whereas Homewood and Rodgers (1991) were focusing on Ngorongoro District, and the NCA in particular. There is evidence to support the claim that villages had a more significant impact on regulating the movements and activities of Maasai in Monduli than in Loliondo.64 Little evidence, however, supports the argument that villagization radically changed the seasonal movements of livestock from wet- to dry-season grazing areas or altered access to water or mineral deposits dispersed across the landscape in Loliondo. The democratically elected village assembly did not replace the authority of lineage, sectional or clan affiliations, or age sets in managing the complex socio-spatial arrangements of pastoralists in Loliondo.
Chief among the lasting effects of villagization was the construction of several primary schools, encouraging Maasai to keep their permanent homesteads relatively close to the new village centers. Extension agents also promoted the cultivation of small plots of maize and beans, which became an increasingly significant part of the Maasai diet from the 1970s onward. Despite these important influences, the Maasai in Loliondo saw the village as an instantiation of state management separate from internal Maasai social relations and governance.
State efforts to settle pastoralists through villages and ranching associations throughout the 1970s and 1980s did little to turn Maasai pastoralists into Maasai villagers. However, neoliberal policies and ideologies together with the changing meaning of indigeneity led to new political tactics in which the Maasai were in a better position to wage their struggle as villagers than they were as an ethnic group. My argument is that from the 1990s onward the village emerged as a central institution for managing access to resources, organizing cultural values and interests, and claiming local land rights.
Territory and Identity
Maasai history is one of dynamic processes of competition and struggle for territory with neighboring groups of agriculturalists, semipastoralists, and other pastoralists. Richard Waller (1985) describes how the interaction of forces—including trade, drought, stock raiding, and intermarriage—shaped the current configurations of Maasai identity and territory. He conveys a sense of how the history of the Maasai is one of relational production of identity and territory, where “different Maa-speaking groups competed for control of stock, grazing, and water, absorbing some of their defeated opponents in the process and forcing others onwards onto the periphery, where they settled or merged with the surrounding populations, adjusting their economy and identity accordingly” (1985, 358).
One of the main differences between pastoralist expansion and agricultural expansion is that “herding groups commonly appropriate the resources of areas much larger than those which they effectively occupy” (Waller 1985, 365). Because of the lack of physical occupation and relatively small military force, pastoral territorial expansion does not mean either complete occupation of land or conquest of people. Another factor limiting the ability of pastoralist groups from effectively controlling large territories is their relatively small-scale political organization. Maasai territorial control operates largely through sectional affinities, known as olosho (pl. iloshon).
Along with clan membership, Maasai ethnic sections are the primary way that ethnicity is locally understood and mobilized. This is especially true in Loliondo, where a number of sections share overlapping territories. A council of elders is responsible for sectional political decisions. Identification with a particular section is based on lineage and territory, but in times of peace, boundaries between sections remain fluid. Intermarriage between sections is common and an important source of territorial alliances between them. The majority of Tanzanian Maasai belong to the Kisongo section. For example, most of the Maasai in Monduli and Kiteto Districts are from the Kisongo section. In contrast, Loliondo Maasai include Maasai from three dominant sections: Laitayok, Loita, and Purko (described in more detail in chapter 5).
Rather than simply being left out of the development process, Loliondo leaders have actively promoted pastoral livelihoods and organized communities to resist the efforts by state agencies and officials to fix their identities and rights to a given territory. My own initial nostalgic view of finding the most authentic place for pastoralists made me question how landscapes that appeared so timeless and natural were actually produced through cultural struggle. The commonsense truth that Loliondo was the “last place with real pastoralists” was due more to Maasai engagement with national and international actors and interests—including conservationists, foreign experts, hunters, farmers, and state officials—than to Maasai remoteness from them. Rather than the isolated periphery of Tanzania, Loliondo is in many ways the core of East African pastoralism. Maintaining a regional economy capable of supporting pastoralism was the result of a political project. Liberalization in the form of structural-adjustment policies and deregulation opened tourism in Maasai villages as a new economic activity. This posed new risks of land dispossession in the name of conservation. The persistent power of “the myth of wild Africa” created obstacles for the Maasai to represent their villages as sites of both pastoralism and conservation. But with the ability to attract direct partnerships with safari tourism operators, many Maasai leaders used the new historical moment to translate the meaning of the village as the best place to achieve conservation goals. Rather than reproduce the dominant idea that nature must be kept separate from people, the Maasai represented the village as a site of both pastoral production and wildlife conservation.
I have illustrated how the people of Loliondo are bound together not only by customary relations but also by their collective political action to successfully defend their land from encroachment by the state, settlers from other regions, and investors. Despite the appearance of an unchanged landscape, the history of Loliondo reveals the importance of social mobilization and struggle in producing the meanings and values that give the place its particular shape. By reimagining the village as a property-holding, authentic community, Maasai leaders drew directly on neoliberal discourses of privatized property rights and decentralized natural-resource governance to challenge the nation-state’s authority over Loliondo as a global conservation area.