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Evictions Disguised as Conservation: Voices from the Land That Was to Run Forever

August 26, 2023
Common Dreams


We journeyed through the dirt tracks in the middle of the savanna—the vibrant crimson of the Maasai shukas making cardinal dots in the arid landscape. Zebras grazed in polyphony with cows, and the occasional giraffe paced gracefully, stretching its freckled neck towards the sky. Wildebeest and gazelles stampeded through the lands, a cloud of dust trailing behind them.

From the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the landscapes of northern Tanzania are mesmerizing. The Ngorongoro Crater, often referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world,” is a natural marvel—a massive volcanic caldera teeming with wildlife amidst many shades of lush golden hues. But what made this journey both heartfelt and heartbreaking was my time with the Indigenous Maasai who have traditionally inhabited the area, which in their mother tongue Maa is described as “the lands that run forever.” The complex but harmonious relationship between living creatures here is striking; the Maasai do not hunt the wild animals residing in the bush—they share the land with them.

For centuries, the Maasai have resided in the African Rift Valley, roaming the land with their cattle who graze on the available shrubbery and grass. Their deep connection to the land is woven into their identity, culture, and spirituality. This life has its challenges—the dry season being a perfect example of the elements they endure—harsh, scorching, dusty wind, with scarcity of water and grass for their cattle. But, in recent years, the resilient and courageous communities have been faced with a challenge previously unmatched—“fortress” conservation.

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