"Climate Change is the New Lion” – Growing up in the Maasai
Growing up in a pastoral community was a great experience to interact with nature and wildlife. Livestock was a source of livelihoods and economic development. The connection between culture and nature was intimate. My community respects wildlife and nature the same way they do our culture. It's in my community where you could find leaders and conservationist stewards who never went to school, but are rich in cultural and indigenous knowledge – The Maasai, popularly known across all parts of the world. The Maasai community has been on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and this has gone to an extent that their education, health, and transport sectors have been hampered by escalating inequality and poverty.
Being on the frontlines of the climate crisis, l grew up experiencing devastating impacts across health, education, gender and energy. We could not live like any other families since my parents were neither learned nor employed. Life was difficult in the village: education was the only avenue to make a difference and bring about change; women walked long distances in search of water, whilst also being responsible for families chores, and my brothers dropped out of school to migrate with livestock in search of water and pasture in absence of our parents to guide them. Furthermore, getting access to read past 6PM was a dream since there was no electricity in day schools and electricity in homes was a theory. High temperatures influenced and rescheduled lesson hours in schools in the community, most children missed schools due to hunger and lack of school fees, and the absence of parental guidance due to migrations led to poor performance.
Photo by Nelli Huié
Most families have been separated due to migration to other parts of the country in search of water and pasture for the livestock but the poor roads in the regions disrupt the transportation of people and goods to the market. A lack of electricity in the regions has interfered with the learning of the students and local communities, and the intense droughts and temperatures caused massive damages and loss of property.
My entire education journey has been challenging. We could walk for long distances in search of water whilst also having to go to school – although at least there we could have food since it was part of the program. Many other scholars dropped out since they could not overcome the challenges. It's a dream to find myself at the university college from the village – an achievement indeed! I am working hard to get the knowledge that our parents did not have access to and aspire to be the change in my village and entire society.
Going through all this and meeting great environmentalists before joining college has inspired me to be a climate champion and amplify my voice using the indigenous knowledge to bring meaningful change in the society. Joining and volunteering in various organisations has geared me to be among the climate environmental defenders across the world.
Through my initiative, MAIN Network, l help my community in amplifying the voices for indigenous communities and by sharing stories from the grassroots to bring solutions in regards to biodiversity protection and climate change with a campaign #weareindigenous.
Instead of running towards the solution, the majority seem to want to continue the status quo. The burden of proof rests on those who wish to protect rather than those who wish to harm. As a result, we threw precautions to the wind. Step by step regardless of all odds and adversities. I am here to fight for what is right and make lasting changes in my community and the whole world, going beyond verbalising my aspirations for the change that l want to make in my community. By being vulnerable and authentic, I'll serve as an example to inspire other young people and the world through storytelling to harness their emotions into actions to protect the planet.