Oxfam helps the Maasai to cope with rising prices. Credit: Caroline Irby/Oxfam
An Oxfam grainbank is making all the difference.

Tanzania: Supporting the livelihood of Maasai pastoralists

Drought upon drought, rising food and fuel prices have hit Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania hard. An Oxfam grainbank is making all the difference in a community of Ngorongoro, Tanzania.

 Ami Vitale/OxfamIncreasingly unpredictable climate

The Maasai pastoralists of northern Tanzania are some of the country’s most marginalized people. They often live in drought and disaster-prone areas, and depend on cattle for their survival. But the increasingly unpredictable climate and successive poor rains have left the animals too weak to provide milk, blood and meat. With the cattle too weak, the Maasai have to eat porridge made from cereals, but prices are high.

Rising staple prices

Prices of staples like maize are up 136 per cent in Tanzania, driven up by fuel prices and drought. In remote districts, prices are higher than anywhere. A 25kg container of maize grain, enough to feed a family of five for a week, costs up to 10,000 Tanzanian shillings (£5), nearly double the price in January 2008.  To feed their children, local Maasai women have been forced to sell their traditional beadwork, often family heirlooms, and wedding gifts, to tourists staying in nearby safari lodges. 

 Geoff Sayer/Oxfam

Tourism: an aggravating factor

The impact of rising prices is exacerbated by tourism. Many Maasai communities can no longer use water sources taken over by tourist lodges, and are being denied the right to farm their traditional land. With little influence over policies, their traditional livelihoods are threatened.

Village grain stores

Oxfam is speaking up for the Maasai’s rights and helping them to cope with rising prices. We help build village grain stores run by committees of elders. The committees use a float to buy grain in bulk when it’s cheap at harvest time. Then, as prices rise and fluctuate throughout the year, villagers are able to buy grain at a more stable, reduced rate.


The scheme has allowed Maasai people to buy their week’s supply of maize for 7,000 shillings ($5.60) instead of 10,000 ($8). The scheme has had an impact on another way: it has considerably reduced the burden on women, and improved local population’s health. Some women had to make journeys with donkeys of up to 120km twice a month to get grain. Elizabeth Lemakanga says: “We were very tired after the long journey. We had to sleep in the open and became sick.” Oxfam will continue to help protect the Maasai from rising prices and climate-related shocks, supporting their way of life for the next generation.

Other examples of communities adapting to climate change: 

 Jane Beesley/Oxfam


Bangladesh: Preparing for flood disaster

 Jane Beesley/Oxfam


Bolivia: Reviving ancient indigenous knowledge

 Caroline Irby/Oxfam


Raising southern voices: The Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union