Safeguarding Rangelands: Collaborative Efforts of Maasai Women in Kiteto District, Tanzania to Preserve Community Grazing Lands

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Women play a pivotal role as changemakers within societies, and their influence extends far beyond conventional expectations. In an inspiring display of resilience and determination, six hundred and forty-five Maasai women gathered in in the NAPALAI grazing land cluster of Kiteto district, Tanzania, from 27 November to 4 December 2023. Their collective mission: to peacefully protest the encroachment by farmers on community-owned grazing land, despite being demarcated and gazetted by the Tanzanian government. `  

The Maasai community attributes special spiritual power to women, empowering them to confront oppression and humiliation. In a groundbreaking move, the women of Kiteto district decided to harness this power to reclaim the grazing land in NAPALAI and KIMBO clusters, land secured through the CGIAR Research Initiative on Livestock and Climate’s innovation on joint village land use planning. Their strategy involved placing curses on pastoralists selling the land and pressuring district and village leaders to evict encroachers from the grazing land.  

On 4 December 2023, a peaceful women’s demonstration was held, bringing together participants from both clusters. The district commissioner was summoned to address the congregation, answering the women’s inquiries and outlining the government’s plan for evicting encroachers. The women voiced their concerns about the government’s failure to safeguard the grazing land against alternative land uses. 

Kiteto district commissioner addressing the congregation. Photo by B.Olesikilal.
Kiteto district commissioner addressing the congregation. Photo by B.Olesikilal.

In response to the women’s concerns, the district commissioner acknowledged and commended their peaceful demonstration. He also issued several crucial directives:  

  1. Formation of a special team: A small team, comprising women and traditional leaders, will be formed to collaborate closely with the district commissioner in facilitating the eviction of encroachers. 
  2. Empowering traditional means: While urging women to uphold their traditional methods for asserting their rights, the district commissioner emphasized the importance of compliance with national laws.  
  3. Village leaders’ responsibilities: Village leaders were instructed to safeguard and adhere to designated land uses within their jurisdictions.  

      While politicians often respond to situations based on convenience, Maasai women are making waves in reclaiming their grazing land. Women, driven by a concern for future generations, exhibit a resilience that is challenging to manipulate through bribery or political maneuvering. The success of this initiative hinges on the women’s knowledge of legal procedures related to land and land rights and their ability to hold leaders accountable.  

      The Maasai women of Kiteto district are working hard to keep their community’s grazing land safe. Their approach, blending spiritual conviction with peaceful activism, shows the power of women-led grassroots movements. In the face of adversity, these women stand as inspiration to communities seeking to safeguard their resources and preserve their heritage. 

      Kiteto district is supported by the CGIAR Research Initiative on Livestock and Climate, where efforts are being made to secure land rights and strengthen governance and management of rangeland resources. This is achieved by supporting policy-serving innovations, engaging in joint village land use planning (JVLUP) and facilitating participatory rangeland management. Particular attention has been given to building women’s capacities as leaders through women’s leadership forums.  

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