The families of Ole Letema have covered over 2,500 kilometers in the last two and a half years in search for pasture for their cattle. "Our cattle are now less than twenty kilometers away from
|Livestock succumb to drought Photo:Courtesy|
The Maasai, one of the major pastoralist communities in
The G8 model of responding to African challenges is "give them more money." Tarmac roads weave through Maasai land, flower farms, electricity, urbanization, schools, churches and mosques. The closest the aid money has benefited the roaming Maasai by introducing "modernity" is to convince him to sale out his land, cattle and apply for a job. The Maasai predicament mirrors what is going on in Africa. The attempt to graft development models on the continent yields negative results precisely because it ignores the fact that development is about people and not exhibitionist structures. Note that to the Maasai, focus is on water and pasture; the borders put up between
What the "throw money at their problem" model does is to sustain the disconnect that exists among the African people and their governments. Aid money might be pumped in for the government to put up a meat processing factory that will end up becoming an additional cash cow for political sycophants to be rewarded. Another donor might opt to support a promising private sector investor; but a secret caveat will push for purchase beef cattle from ranchers owned by western affiliated interests. The excuse here will be that the Maasai cannot deliver on time, on predetermined standards and also his culture. The water pump donor will get back to a vandalized machine as soon as he jumps into a waiting air-conditioned fuel guzzler.
The current relationship with the G8 has helped create a myth in Africa that some communities are more enterprising than the others. What the fine print does not point out is that the so referred to as enterprising tend to be a front for western interests while at the same time hold the core of elite that drive political and governance processes. What offloading money to African governments and aid related agencies does is to sustain a process of "others" seeking to develop "others." The African elite have been preconditioned to pursue development dreams as per the existing education system and movies. The trek-for-grass predicament is expected to be an issue for "others" to fix.
Will the G8 allow Maasai to export beef, skin and hides to Europe? Is the Kenyan and Tanzanian government keen to gain legitimacy from its citizenry through a constitutional consultative process that can grow United Nations (ethnic groups) of
The Maasai development "software" and by extension Africa's have been corrupted by too much emphasis on money as the key to the continent's prosperity. The determination exhibited by Ole Letema's 2,500 kilometer trek for pasture is a clear indicator that he can put up grass "banks," engage in drought preparedness and effectively confront the threat of
By James Shikwati
Mr Shikwati [email protected] is Director, Inter Region Economic Network (IREN)