In this final part of the series, we’re going to explore one of the Maasai Ngorongoro villages. Their villages may appear identical from a distance — people wandering about dressed in bright colors, tending to their daily chores, homes built of wood and mud. The entire village is typically contained within a high circular wooden fence to keep the predators out. Yes, a Maasai village is very easily identifiable, but from my experience that's where the similarities end.
The Maasai have come to rely heavily upon tourism to generate income to support their extended families. Since much of their land has become national parks, their traditional grazing lifestyle is not always possible. They now use the tourism to these national parks to their advantage by selling their wares, charging visitors to tour their villages (typically $15-25 per person) and of course by selling their milk to locals or at the market. It's common for the Maasai men to take jobs working for nearby hotels or resorts. However, because proximity to tourists means more traffic and more money, some villages that are located far from high traffic roads or tourist locations tend to lack many of the basic needs–clean water, health care, schooling…etc.
This village located in the Ngorongoro Crater houses a very large extended family. As our guide, Sanguar put it, “I have over 120 brothers and sisters and I know all their names.” But due to the poor economy, the competition amongst the villages for tourist dollars is tough, and Sanguar's village hadn't seen many visitors within the last few months. I know there is a lot of debate about how the Maasai people ought to be sustaining themselves and some feel that the Maasai should not be relying upon tourism to feed their families. If you're ever in Africa (and I know that's a big if), I strongly suggest visiting with a Maasai village and keep in mind their native territory was encroached upon to sustain the parks that you would likely go visit, so they have taken to a legitimate business, tourism, to feed their families.
I truly enjoyed visiting with the Maasai, and I am glad that they continue to practice and share many of their traditions with us.