NAROK, Kenya – The most recognizable cultural group in Africa may be the Maasai. Living mostly in Kenya and Tanzania, their everyday attire of brightly colored fabrics and elaborate beaded jewelry, set against the backdrop of the African Savannah, have seared their identity into the minds of every traveler to the region.
The Maasai warriors were so fierce, their people were able to defy slavery. To this day, it’s a rite of passage to kill a lion when a young man becomes a warrior. This brand of virility and masculinity is also defined by the number of cattle in one’s herd.
But the Maasai’s profound cultural and economic ties to livestock are threatened by a series of relentless droughts, which have wiped out more than 50 percent of their herds.
“There is a big change,” Takiata Kariankei, a 77-year-old pastoralist and family patriarch, said via a translator. “Droughts didn’t used to kill a lot of cattle but now bad droughts are coming and reducing the numbers dramatically.”