“This is my bike”, says Pendo Ndemo pointing at a bicycle that peers between a group of Masai women. They have gathered in the shade of a veranda. Outside, the light is dazzling. Now and then, a hot and dry breath of wind tells how harsh it would be without the roof. “I use the bike to visit the members of Tupendane group”, Pendo continues. She is a Pastoralist to Pastoralist Facilitator, and therefore one of the crucial persons in multiplying the skills she acquired before.
Pendo’s group, Nameloki (‘Good Luck’), started their training with SAT in 2017. “Since then, we made a lot of progress. We have 30 crossbreed goats and three cows that are offspring of our traditional sort and a beautiful Mpwapwa bull.” These animals are more heavily built than the Masai’s customary livestock but well adapted to the environment. “Of course, these cattle eat a bit more. But thanks to our stock of hay, this is no problem anymore.”
What Pendo refers to here, is part of a fundamental change of habits. Traditionally, Masai would roam the savanna with their herds to search for grazeland and waterholes. Especially during the dry season, this involves wandering long distances. Through the Farmers and Pastoralists Collaboration (FPC) project, they learnt how to cultivate their pastures with nutritious grasses, and to bale hay for the following period. “Of course, we had our ways to relieve this problem a bit”, Pendo explains. “We fenced off suitable areas so that the fodder grasses would remain for tough times. Then, we would let our cows in for grazing. But these areas usually didn’t last for long.”
In addition to that transformation, FPC also encourages pastoralists to grow crops. This raises their awareness of how it is like when cows invade a crop field. It is a goal of this project to reduce conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. First impressions imply that it works well, evaluation is underway. There is no doubt, though, that the Masai remarkably improved their variety of food through farming.
Eventually, however, water is the source of life. That is why SAT supported the pastoralists with digging a reservoir big enough to quench the thirst of their cattle. Nameloki’s watering-place lies amidst the labyrinth of bald trunks and mostly naked branches in all shades of brown, yellow and ochre, characteristic for the dry season. The pond is surrounded by the typical fencing of thorny twigs and branches, which truely shows its efficiency if only one tries to open it. When needed, a pump drives the water to the concrete trough.
“This is what we need too,” explains Nambeya Nyange, referring to her group’s plans. Tupendane group was founded in April 2019. “We were inspired by what happened in our neighbourhood,” Nambeya Nyange goes on. Asked about the progress, they have made during the first six months, the Tupendane women pick out two improvements. They never had as much milk before during this time of year. And they say that they engage more actively in trade. Through their saving and lending groups, FPC beneficiaries mutually grant loans that must be invested in business. “The men”, describes Theresia Makoretu, “use the credits to buy goats in the neighbourhood and to sell them with profit on the market. The women, on their part, buy wholesale products like soap in town and sell it retail to the villagers.”
Pendo Ndemo, who coaches the Tupendane members through her experience and her skills she picked up in the specialized training for trainers, leads the group to the tuition pasture. The untrained eye could barely make out this area except for the prickly branch fencing and the lower density of trees. Here, Johnson Mwakyusa, SAT facilitator, chips in. He suggests how the group should deal with this grassland that has not thriven as expected because of little rainfalls. “Let the cows in to graze here. This will fertilize the pasture and later encourage the nutritious grass species we sowed to grow faster. They prefer clear spaces.”
Leaving the women in Mingo village, Johnson manoeuvres the motorcycle along the winding paths tightly lined by the bare wood of this time of year. Farmers and pastoralists engage in protecting this fascinating maze. They practice agroforestry, which includes reforestation, and they learn how to produce sustainable cooking fuel. Looking back, the houses in Mingo fade in the web of twigs and branches. Soon, one believes to be miles away from settlements. And indeed, without a vehicle, this place is very remote.
Nameloki, Tupendane and all the other 49 groups of FPC with their 1660 members stay connected with each other and with SAT through a messenger platform on their mobile phones. And before long we got back to Morogoro, there flies in a video showing how Pendo Ndemo instructs the Tupendane group in compost making.
The FPC project is kindly supported by Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, and LED Liechtenstein Development Service.