Maasai in Tanzania The Maasai people are semi-nomadic pastoralists (© Patrick Sertore) Indigenous Maasai herdsman Large parts of the homeland of the Maasai have been declared nature reserves (© hadynyah/ Zebras and wildebeests in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania The Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are famous for their vast herds of animals (© Istockphoto) Masai giraffes, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania The Maasai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi) is a distinct species (© nyiragongo/ Cheetah in the Serengeti The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the world’s fastest land animal (© CC BY-SA 3.0)

A radio station for communities and nature

Northwestern Tanzania's nature is world-renowned. But for the Maasai people, this blessing is also a curse, because the government is running roughshod over their rights in the name of “nature conservation”. A radio station aims to be a voice for reconciliation: People who are informed and know their rights can shape their own future and work toward living together in harmony.

Project Overview

Project FocusRainforest Defenders

Project Objective ensuring better protection for the Maasai people and nature

Activities extending the coverage of a radio station and focusing its content on local issues

Vast herds of zebras and wildebeests, elegant giraffes, imposing elephant families, sleek cheetahs – for many in the global North, the savannas of eastern Africa are synonymous with untouched nature, a veritable Garden of Eden. But despite its beauty, the region cannot be truly called “untouched”. People, especially the Maasai, have lived in the grasslands for many generations. They have indeed “touched” their environment – but lightly and respectfully, without destroying it.

Eastern Africa is not only the “cradle of humanity”, but also, in a sense, the “cradle of protected areas”. Some of the world’s first national parks were established there – not by local people seeking to preserve their homeland, but by the colonial masters, specifically big game hunters. They assumed at the time that white people would need to protect elephants, lions and the like from the threat of the native Africans.

People versus protected areas

But what about the people who live in the savannas of the Serengeti and around Ngorongoro Crater? The principle of “fortress nature conservation” requires them to be resettled – and if necessary, evicted by force. The price of conservation is thus the violation of human rights.

The Maasai in Tanzania and Kenya have lived with this bitter experience and continue to do so. For many generations, the semi-nomads have maintained their self-sufficiency by keeping livestock and with small-scale farming. But now, they are accused of damaging nature with their livestock. At the same time, however, the pastoralists in their iconic blue and red robes are popular photo opportunities for the tourists who are a big source of income for the country.

​The Maasai as a tourist magnet and a threat

To boost international tourism, plans are afoot to enlarge the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This would mean displacing more than 80,000 people. In the Loliondo region, a further 70,000 local people are to be evicted to make way for safari and hunting tourists. In June 2022, the situation escalated and turned violent, with security forces firing on protesters. Environmental and human rights organizations criticized the evictions, and Rainforest Rescue launched a petition on the issue.

The wave of violence temporarily forced Maasai leader Yannick Ndoinyo and the heads of other Indigenous communities into exile in Kenya, where we provided emergency aid for accommodation and food. Yannick is now back in Tanzania and heads the NGO Traditional Ecosystems Survival Tanzania (TEST) in the city of Arusha, and we are providing longer-term support.

Loliondo FM Radio

Loliondo FM Radio is the focus of our project. It currently covers an area in Tanzania and Kenya with a population of 200,000. With upgraded technology, its broadcast area could expand to deliver its programming to up to 3.5 million people from Lake Victoria to Kilimanjaro. Since 2011, the station has addressed a wide range of social issues such as women’s rights, reproductive health and environmental education. Now, rural issues are to become a focal point.

Active citizen journalism will be at the heart of the planned programming. Women, young people, children and seniors will be given a say with their views and in debates. “Listeners’ clubs” are designed to broaden the audience and expand the range of topics.

For the pastoralists, respect for the land and their cattle is ingrained in their souls. We want to give voice to many different land stories and use our radio programs to generate better understanding not only of Maasai beliefs but those of others too – farmers, hunters and conservationists.” –Yannick Ndoinyo

“We want shared understanding and respect for our ways and those of others too. We want to end the conflict. We want peace in our lands. We want to forge new relationships and create a situation where people and wildlife can live in harmony on our land – just as our ancestors did. Our focus will be making lasting peace in Loliondo. We want to change the hearts and minds of communities, government, and other land users to choose peace and harmony among themselves,” says Mshao Naingisa, a laigwanani (traditional leader) from Ololosokwan on the edge of the Serengeti.

If you would like to support the Maasai in Tanzania, please use the “People” donation category.

A giant toucan sitting on a branch in the rainforest © Konrad Wothe

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