To withstand more-intense droughts herders in Tanzania cut the size of their herds and cross-breed for resilience and resistance to disease.
The loss of more than half their livestock in the 2009 drought has led Maasai pastoralists in northern Tanzania’s Arusha region to breed fewer, stronger cattle and end their traditional focus on numbers alone as symbols of wealth and status.
The impact of that devastating drought, which dealt a blow to the whole nation’s economy, is still visible in the small number of cattle in many villages of Engarenaibor in Arusha’s Longido district.
The district’s cattle breeders and owners lost at least 120,000 cattle, more than half the total herd of 200,000, as a result of the drought, which plunged the region into poverty and threatened the pastoralists’ traditional livelihood.
The good news emerging from this blow to their way of life is that breeders have realized that in a time of climate change their wealth lies not in the size of their herd but in its quality.
“The days of keeping many head of cattle for prestige are gone thanks to the 2009 drought. It has taught us a lesson. A lesson to adapt to climate change,” says cattle owner Ngaiyok Legilisho Kipainoi.