World Bank deletes Maasai indigenous people identity

Most Maasai still live their traditional life

By Marc Nkwame - 09. June 2020

AS the World Bank revises the benchmark standards for indigenous people, this time eliminating the Maasai from the fold, the nomadic pastoralists here have come up to protest against this exclusion.

“Maasai communities still survive naturally in their ancestral lands, leading down-to-earth lives practising shifting-grazing of indigenous cattle while also playing important roles of safeguarding nature and biosphere,” stated the Executive Director of the Tanzania Pastoralists Community Forum (TPCF), Joseph Parsambei.

He said removing the Maasai from the indigenous peoples listing will expose the endangered nomadic pastoralists to high levels of vulnerability, including losing ancestral lands and being evicted from some protected areas that they have been permitted to occupy, such as the Ngorongoro.

Executive Director of the Tanzania Pastoralists Community Forum (TPCF), Joseph Parsambei.

“The World Bank is among the most influential global institutions and leading donor agency. Its decision will drastically change how other organizations and states view the Maasai. We therefore appeal to the bank to reconsider this decision,” the TPCF executive intoned.

Neema ole Ndemno of the Tanzania Center for Research and Information on Pastoralism (TCRIP) stated that the NGO was still advocating for the right of land ownership among indigenous societies. Therefore taking out the Maasai from this group will “smash” such efforts, she said.

Kisarei Parimayo of Loliondo said the fifth phase government has played a major role in shielding indigenous communities from hostile ‘investors’ and ‘developers.’ The community therefore appeals to the government to continue recognizing the Maasai as a minority and vulnerable group.

Maasai Woman

Anna Moinan Shinini, working at a Maasai Children Center in Emboreti Ward of Simanjiro District, Manyara Region said women and children in pastoral communities will be most affected once the Maasai are no longer regarded as indigenous people. The majority of them lack education and are as yet unable to own land and property.

The Maasai occupy mostly semi-arid and sparsely populated parts of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, with their number estimated at two million. The Maasai population in Tanzania is assessed at 900,000 by some available surveys.

Other indigenous communities in Tanzania include the Hadza, the Barbaig, the Akiye (Ndorobo [N.B.: Ndorobo is a derogatory term for Indigenous hunter-gatherer cutures]) and Sandawe. Much of the land occupied by indigenous peoples, including the Yaeda Chini Valley of Mbulu District in Manyara where the Hadza reside, is under indigenous customary ownership.

The World Bank report says indigenous people are supposed to be culturally distinct societies and communities. The land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods as well as their physical and spiritual well-being, it says.

There could be 476 million members of indigenous groups worldwide, scattered in nearly 100 countries, and although they make up over six percent of the global population, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor.

Maasai Warriors will take up the fight with the World Bank and the UN

Indigenous peoples’ life expectancy is claimed to be up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous peoples worldwide.

They occupy or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, safeguarding 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity and holding vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate and reduce climate and disaster risks.

Indigenous Peoples often face impediments to their access to natural resources, basic services, the formal economy and justice, as well as their participation in decision making. This legacy of inequality and exclusion has made indigenous communities more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including disease outbreaks such as Covid-19.

Vulnerabilities to the pandemic are exacerbated by the lack of access to national health systems, food insecurity due to shutting down of markets as well as mobility restrictions.

Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation or extremely remote areas, such as the Amazon are at very high risk in the face of the novel coronavirus, as pathogens have historically been one of the most powerful factors in decimating indigenous peoples. Many indigenous communities have traditional practices of lockdowns and isolation to protect themselves from diseases, and these need to be respected.

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