We spent a lot of time while away looking at the wildlife and the issues that it faces but often this is intimately tied up with the people and communities that live alongside. There are few places where this link is so strong as it was in Labentera, with the fate of both wildlife and people tied up with the changes in land management. The villagers herd cattle, travelling widely to where there is food. During our visit most of the cattle were miles away searching for sufficient sustenance; the wild animals too were hard to find. Just as the cattle need to be moved far and wide so too the wildlife ranges back and forth over the landscape. Selling off land and enclosure of it is beginning to have an effect on this movement, restricting the wildlife as much as it does the cattle herders.
We were visiting as part of a group and brought resources for the new nursery school in the village which saves the very young children a long and potentially dangerous walk over to the next village. Members of our group also had links with the new borehole project which should save a long walk for water. We also had medical expertise which was put to good use running a clinic for villagers. None of this is our area of expertise but we assisted where we could.
It’s very easy to judge other people’s houses and villages. Certainly the Maasai houses would be tough for most of the visiting group to live in but of course it’s home to the local people. Fences of thorn sorround the livestock kraal in the village centre but also surround the village itself, a partial protection against wild animals.
While there the villagers laid on a market of local crafts, the proceeds were clearly going back into the local community. We also shared a meal, song and dance around a fire one evening and the British boys and Maasai men enjoyed ‘playing’ with bows and arrows, sticks and spears.