Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’


EU Adopts Resolution on Land Grabs in Tanzania

In March 2015, the European Union (EU) adopted a resolution on land grabs in Tanzania. The resolution spells out that large scale land acquisitions can be defined as land grabs when one or more of the following apply: when there is a clear violation of human rights; when the displacement of affected local communities is carried out without their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent; when it is not based on transparent contracts; and when there is an assessed negative social, economic, and environmental impact.

The resolution also calls for transparency and accountability from European companies involved with large scale land acquisitions in Tanzania, and a strong and efficient EU mechanism to monitor their activities. Moreover, it requests an independent investigation into land disputes in Loliondo, where Maasai pastoralists face repeated eviction attempts. Most recently, communities were violently forced from their homes by soldiers associated with the Tanzania National Parks Authority and Ortello Business Corporation, a luxury hunting company based in the United Arab Emirates.

Sources: European Parliament


Thousands Evicted for Clean Energy and Tourism

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 4.25.45 PM

Thousands of Maasai pastoralists in Kenya and Tanzania are being forced off their lands at gunpoint by their respective governments. In Kenya, the evictions are intended to make way for geothermal energy projects, while in Tanzania, they are associated with Ortello Business Corporation, a luxury hunting company based in the United Arab Emirates with close ties to the ruling family of Dubai. Most conversations about Indigenous Peoples and corporations revolve around the oil, gas, and mining sectors, but it’s important not to neglect other industries (in this case, “clean” energy and tourism) that can be responsible for abysmal violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Sources: Cultural Survival, Ecologist

This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.


Rape, Sex Trafficking, and the Bottom Line: Corporations’ Complicity in Violence Against Women

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

Rosa Eblira Coc Inh, one of the plaintiffs. (Photo by Roger LeMoyne, MacLeans)

By Katie Cheney

On January 17, 2007, 9 men entered the temporary home of Rosa Elbira Coc Ich, a Mayan Q’eqchi woman in Guatemala. 12 days earlier, Rosa and her family had been forcibly evicted from their home – now, she faced a second eviction, as hundreds of policemen, military, and security workers entered the settlement. After pointing a gun to her head, these 9 officials – one by one – proceeded to rape Rosa. They followed suit with 10 more Mayan Q’eqchi’ women in the community.

Gender-based violence is considered a pandemic by the United Nations, as 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Women and girls are victims of violence at the hands of their partners, family members, communities, and governments – and now, increasingly, the private sector.

The officials that entered Rosa’s settlement allegedly did so based on a land dispute, between the Fenix mine, then owned by Skye Resources, and the Q’eqchi’ Mayan community of El Estor, Guatemala. The community claims the land on which the mine sits as their Indigenous territory, and has argued that the land concession was granted without the community’s consultation or consent. Skye Resources allegedly hired security officers to “guard” the mine against the local community – the same security officers that carried out the evictions and rapes in El Estor In 2007.

On March 28, 2011, the 11 Q’eqchi rape survivors filed a lawsuit in Ontario’s Superior Court against Hudbay Minerals, which acquired Skye Resources in 2008. It is the first time a Canadian court is hearing a case against a Canadian mining company for overseas human rights abuses. The company is also facing lawsuits from the El Estor community for shootings in 2009 that left one man dead and another paralyzed, investigations into which are ongoing in Guatemala. Hudbay Minerals has denied all allegations against them, saying they are “without merit”, and has vowed to “vigorously defend itself” against the allegations of rape. The company’s stance on its former operations in Guatemala can be accessed on its website.

Rape: A Weapon of Corporate Warfare

In 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited CEO’s and Corporate Executives the world over to join in the fight to end violence against women and girls – but what about corporations that are perpetrating, and at the very least permitting, violence against women?

Over the past decade, more and more cases of corporations complicit in violence against women have surfaced across the globe, particularly in the extractive industry. Anvil Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo provided transportation (planes and vehicles) to the Congolese Armed Forces as they raped and tortured civilians near Anvil’s Dikulushi copper mine. Unocal Oil Corporation was sued for permitting (and arguably encouraging) rape, slave labor, murder, and forced displacement during the constructing of their gas pipeline in Burma. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is infamous for suppressing protests against their operations in Nigeria in the early 1990s, during which the military systematically targeted Ogoni villages, murdering, looting, and raping Ogoni women – on behalf of Shell’s operations.

An overwhelming number of lawsuits against extractive corporations that cite human rights abuses include rape and sexual assault of women. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, and was deemed a war crime in 1998 as a result of the Rwandan genocide. According to UNICEF, “Sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. Rape’s damage can be devastating because of the strong communal reaction to the violation and pain stamped on entire families. The harm inflicted in such cases on a woman by a rapist is an attack on her family and culture, as in many societies women are viewed as repositories of a community’s cultural and spiritual values.” Albeit on a smaller scale, corporations are waging wars against communities, and using sexual violence as a weapon.


Bakken: the Sex Trafficking Boom

While many of these cases happen internationally, extractive corporations have not excluded the United States from this trend of gender-based human rights abuses. The Bakken oil formation in North Dakota has boomed – over the past five years, it has increased daily production of oil from 200,000 barrels to 1.1 million barrels, becoming the second most oil-productive state in the country. Thousands of highly-paid workers have flocked to the region, settling in “man camps” that encroach upon the Native American Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. The combined influx of cash and oil workers has sparked a considerable crime wave – crime has tripled on the reservation in the past 2 years, including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, and robberies – 90% of which are drug related. Most alarmingly, a burgeoning illegal sex trade in the region has put Native American women hugely at risk to sex trafficking.

The trafficking of Native American women started in the colonial era, and has not abated – many major sex trafficking centers in North America are in cities in proximity to First Nations reserves, Indian Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. Of female trafficking victims in the U.S., Native American women are disproportionately over-represented – in Anchorage, 33% of the women arrested for prostitution were Alaska Native, yet Alaska Natives make up only 7.9% of the population. In Canada, researchers have found that 90% of children in the sex trade were Native, and First Nations women and youth represent between 70 and 90% of the visible sex trade in areas where the Aboriginal population is less than 10%.

Reports of Native American women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken has put the Three Affiliated Tribes community on high alert – according to Sadie Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence, “We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out…these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about. No one was prepared for any of this.” While trafficking has been a concern among Native populations in Minnesota and North Dakota for a long time, what’s unique about the spike in sex trafficking in the Bakken is its source of fuel – the oil workers.

How have companies operating in the Bakken responded to this trend? They haven’t. Companies including Apache, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Hess have taken zero responsibility for their workers’ collusion in the growing sex trade, increased drug violence, and general crime wave in Fort Berthold over the past two years, let alone the rest of the Bakken region.

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. photo credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum]


Zero Corporate Social Responsibility

There is no indication that companies are having any substantive conversations about the impacts of their operations in the Bakken region. This trend of neglecting social risks, as companies in the Bakken have done repeatedly, has permeated corporate interactions with the communities they impact across the globe.

In the example of the Hudbay Minerals case in Guatemala, the company could have avoided its current legal challenges, had it given stronger attention to the social risks involved with acquiring Skye Resources. Despite making a number of community investments (link), the company remains exposed to financial, legal, and reputational risks related to the actions of its predecessor in the concession.

Hudbay is not the only one with poor social risk management. First Peoples Worldwide’s Indigenous Rights Risk Report found that only 8% of U.S. oil, gas, and mining companies have operating policies that address human rights or community relations. According to the report, virtually all communities that host or are proximate to extractive projects are unprotected from the project’s potential negative impacts – as we’ve seen, given case after case of corporate abuses against women.


The Price of Cooperation

Corporations can’t get much worse than perpetrating violence against women – except when they attempt to bribe their victims to keep quiet. Barrick Gold’s Porgera gold mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold since 1990, an amount equivalent to about US$20 billion today. To protect the mine, Barrick employed a private security force of nearly 450 personnel, who also monitor the mine’s waste dumps. Hundreds of local people scour the waste dumps daily in search of minute traces of gold, at the risk of arrest by the company’s security officers.

At least 170 women have allegedly been raped at the Porgera mine as of 2013, by those same security officers employed by Barrick Gold. A report from Human Rights Watch recounts horrifying stories of gang rape and physical abuse, in the name of “protecting” the waste dumps from illegal mining. Many women reported that after they were arrested, they were given a choice between gang rape or going to prison and paying fines. Several were raped regardless of their choice to go to prison.

It allegedly took Barrick Gold 5 years to acknowledge the rapes. In 2013, the company set up a grievance process at the mine site to receive complaints from the rape victims – allegedly forcing women to return to the site of their attack. In Barrick Gold’s remediation strategy, if womens’ reports of rape were validated by the company’s complaints process, they qualified to receive a benefits package – on the condition that “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Barrick Gold or its subsidiaries] in or outside of [Papua New Guinea].” Barrick Gold’s conditional remediation package, including items such as access to counseling and micro-credit, is an appallingly inhuman response to the rape of 170 women.

Not surprisingly, a chillingly similar case occurred at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania, where police and security guards sexually assaulted 14 women, originally arrested for also scouring waste dumps for tiny bits of gold. This is in addition to allegations that security police at the North Mara mine killed six local villagers and injured many more.

Barrick Gold has repeatedly made systemic failures in both recognizing and addressing the social risks of their mining operations, and at this point, hundreds of people have faced sexual assault and violence because of it.


Corporate Warfare

Imagine if we were to add Barrick’s number of rape victims to those attributed to Hudbay Minerals, Shell, Anvil Mining, and Unocal Oil. Then, we accounted for every sex trafficking victim in the Bakken, whose exploitation was supported by various extractive corporations’ employees. To be thorough, we add in the number of murder, torture, and assault victims linked to corporate abuses. War has traditionally been defined as conflict between political entities – yet if we consider corporations collectively, is their accumulation of victims and use of force not increasingly similar to warfare?

Account after account of gender-based violence is adding up to a war – waged by corporations, against women. Their weapon of choice: rape, sex trafficking, and violence, all for the sake of the bottom line.



Indigenous Women as Development Practitioners: conducting equality-driven projects without sacrificing cultural significance

By Elizabeth Gunggoll

The encroachment of Western culture on Indigenous communities has posed a myriad of consequences for Indigenous peoples – Indigenous languages are increasingly endangered; western education is replacing traditional knowledge; youth are moving to urban areas in droves. What starts as marginalization of an entire community by the government or state can turn into a power struggle of the sexes. More often than not, Indigenous women find themselves losing the social status they traditionally held, to have it replaced by a role that gives them less influence in their household or community.

In this way, Indigenous women are marginalized twofold: one, as being Indigenous, along with the rest of their community, and two, as women. For example, non-Indigenous women across Africa lack rights to inheritance, property/livestock ownership, and land tenure. The same lack of rights for Indigenous women, paired with ethnic and political marginalization that all Indigenous peoples face, predisposes them further to situations of poverty, gender-based violence, a lack of education, and other disadvantages.


Ma’an – The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev

For the Negev Bedouin community in Israel, women have lost their traditional respected status and societal roles due to increased discrimination from the state, to the point where many Bedouin villages are considered “unrecognized”. This marginalization from the state gave rise to the marginalization of Bedouin women from their own community. Bedouin women face a multitude of gender-based challenges, including polygamy, domestic violence, child marriages, and a patriarchal family and community structure that has lasting consequences into adulthood. For Negev Bedouin women, their greatest limitation is a lack of both individual and community awareness of rights and entitlements. So the question is: what could be done to help Indigenous Bedouin women regain their autonomy, and restore their ability to trust others?

Ma’an – The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev works to provide spiritual, emotional, and physical healing for Bedouin women who are or have been subjected to domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. In a community where seeking help is often discouraged, trust is developed between those reaching out for help and those lending “first aid”, by offering sympathy as well as practical solutions to their struggles. The fact that most of the volunteers are Bedouin women with similar experiences offers a degree of comfort to those seeking help, because “they themselves [face] the traditional and patriarchal codes.” With the help of First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund, Ma’an has created a comprehensive system for women’s protection, which involves a Hotline, the Ma’an legal team, and staff to address the welfare and wellbeing of Ma’an’s beneficiaries. Such an attentive project enables an environment where Indigenous Bedouin women can work toward their own security.

“With guidance and support the beneficiaries will develop to be able to effectively advocate for their rights within the community, so creating and contributing to an inclusive society by participating in decision making processes that impact upon their lives and that of the wider community.” – Ma’an– The Forum for Bedouin Women’s Organizations in the Negev

Ultimately, Ma’an’s goal is for Indigenous Bedouin women to regain the respect, strong social footing, and economic capabilities they once held alongside their male counterparts. By promoting women’s rights and status in the Negev Bedouin community, the project will build on the community’s traditional values and strengths of respecting women’s roles.


Kakenya Center for Excellence

While some Indigenous women’s groups are trying to return to their traditional gender roles, others are looking to transcend traditional values in order to broaden their horizons. As a young girl growing up in a Maasai village, life is usually predetermined according to cultural traditions, and girls are expected to halt their schooling at a young age to become wives and mothers. Young Maasai women might not consider more prosperous and enlightening opportunities, simply because they aren’t aware of them. This cycle of marginalization is reinforced from one generation to the next, as a combination of doubting teachers and tribal elders “dictating [their] present and future without considering [their] social, financial, or emotional well-being”. So, while young Indigenous girls are essentially dissuaded from continuing their education in order to assume the role of the childrearing homemaker, they lose the opportunity to gain important insight into their rights.

This is where the Kakenya Center for Excellence, another Keepers of the Earth Fund recipient, comes into play. Kakenya Ntaiya, born and raised in the Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya, diverged from the traditional path of women in her village to attend higher education in the United States. After completing her studies, she returned to Enoosaen to create a school which works to “empower and motivate young girls to become agents of change in their community and country.”

[photo credit: Kakenya Center for Excellence]

[photo credit: Kakenya Center for Excellence]

“Girls are a valuable part of the community, and since the entire community is connected and thrives when each individual thrives, it is important to invest in girls as crucial members and contributors of society rather than only wives and mothers.” – The Kakenya Center for Excellence

The center works to reinforce the fact that women are independent, and therefore capable of carving their own path, however it does so without sacrificing traditional Maasai values. To do this, KCE provides an environment where the girls can thrive. The teaching of leadership skills and the spreading of knowledge in order to make informed decisions about reproductive health forms a curriculum that not only empowers, but also enlightens. In the Maasai village of Enoosaen, as in many rural villages of Kenya, Female Genital Mutilation is a rite of passage into adulthood that also traditionally prepares them for marriage – however the procedure is extremely painful and often inflicts lasting physical damage to young girls. Instructors in the center let the girls know that FGM is not an obligation while also maintaining the spirit behind the ritual, and the ushering into adulthood it represents, through their own graduation ceremony. All in all, the Kakenya Center for Excellence demonstrates that it is indeed possible to hold on to cultural values while still developing one’s community in a direction of gender-equality.


Highland Women’s Association

Indigenous women living in microregions of Guatemala are confronted with similar challenges. The Maya population, making up much of the country’s rural poor, suffered genocide from the Guatemalan government during their civil war. In 1992, four years before the end of the war, AMA, or the Highland Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano), started working with widows and orphans in the Quiche region, one of the most affected by the armed conflict. AMA’s goal was to help the most isolated and marginalized women living in the highlands of Guatemala through community organizing, educational instruction, utilization of economic resources and production, and partnership that allows for a life of dignity, while initiating sustainable developmental processes.

“The mission of AMA is to break cycles of dependency by providing accompaniment and support to grassroots community leaders to foster transformational processes with Indigenous women.” The transformational process, meaning lifting people out of poverty through social change and economic dependency, is facilitated through small organized women’s circles led by trained community organizers, often of Maya descent. Empowerment and leadership skills are developed through a curriculum organized around four focal areas: self-esteem and mental health programming, education, civic participation, and private enterprise.

Traditional Maya practices and values are not lost with the installation of these new programs.

“In our meetings, we try to harmonize the material aspects of our daily lives with our spiritual life through our Maya worldview taught to us by our grandparents.” Guadalupe Ramirez Blevins, Directora, Asociación de Mujeres del Altiplano

This is in part a large reason for their success as a system of development practitioners. The Indigenous Maya women are able to regain pride and empowerment in their traditional values, as opposed to distancing themselves from the culture that sparked a civil war wishing to extinguish their existence.

AMA’s success has helped to re-instill freedom of expression among Maya women as more respect is being given to Indigenous Maya communities since the end of the civil war. Three generations starting from AMA’s founder, Doña Carmen Romero, her daughter Alejandra, and now her granddaughters Jesica and Yolanda are able to vouch for the success and empowerment that AMA has brought to Indigenous Maya women. They say that community organization is required for community development, for having a voice and power in community decision making, and also in order to inspire other women to be active among their own group of women – whether they are serving in their local school, community committees, or being an active member in their church.


Pastoral Women’s Council

Safeguarding cultural values while escaping gender inequality continues to be an important factor in other community development projects as well. The Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC), based in Northern Tanzania, implements a variety of programs with this goal in mind. Not only does PWC work towards providing an education for Maasai girls, but it also lifts marginalized Maasai women out of poverty through exposure to property ownership and opportunities for income generation, while preserving an ancient Maasai practice of livestock herding.

[photo credit: Pastoral Women's Council]

[photo credit: Pastoral Women’s Council]

Aside from working with the Maa Council of Elders to lift the ban on women as livestock owners, exposure to women in leadership has had a great effect on the women of the Maasai community. Additionally, women are encouraged to openly discuss the positive and negative aspects of Maasai culture, to act on their findings, and to mobilize local efforts and resources. These factors, on top of increased awareness of their individual rights, caused Maasai women to finally feel empowered. The encouragement of such expression lets the Maasai women know they have a voice worth hearing, and everyone is capable of being an agent of change.

Since becoming a Keepers of the Earth Fund grantee, PWC has been able to undertake community meetings and gain community support, acquire and vaccinate livestock for Maasai women to breed, therefore facilitating economic independence, and train women on the diagnosis and treatment of livestock diseases.


All women, Indigenous or not, feel the effects of gender inequality on a daily basis. However, for women of Indigenous communities, the effects are often compounded by the unique marginalization of their Indigenous identity. As Western culture inevitably continues to influence more Indigenous nations, it is important to bring attention to and promote Indigenous values that value Indigenous women. Feelings of empowerment grow and thrive in programs where Indigenous women are sharing education and leadership with other women from their own communities, empowering them to be autonomous, independent members of society. There is still quite a bit of work to be done, yet more and more Indigenous women are living the lives of development practitioners, and being agents of change within their communities. As it becomes more evident that the entire community thrives when each individual is empowered, the reality of gender equality within Indigenous cultures comes more clearly into view.




Photographic Update: Thousands of Maasai Made Homeless in Tanzania

Last week, more than 3,000 Maasai people in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro District were displaced from their homes, when Serengeti National Park security rangers burned 114 Maasai bomas. As of February 15, boma burnings reportedly happened in the villages of Arash, Loosoito and Maaaloni, although there have been reports of burnings in other Maasai villages as well. Below are photographs from the ongoing displacement of Maasai in Tanzania.

Displaced Maasai [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Displaced Maasai [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Burned settlement [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

A burned settlement [photo credit: Charles Ngereza,journalist, Tanzania]

Displaced Maasai. [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Displaced Maasai. [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Burning Boma [photo credit: Fredy Ledid]

Burning Boma [photo credit: Fredy Ledid]

Maasai that have been made homeless [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Maasai that have been made homeless [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

A burned settlement [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Imprint of a burned boma [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Maasai [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Maasai women [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Maasai with their belongings [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Maasai with their belongings [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Charles Olengereza interviewing community members [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Charles Ngereza interviewing community members [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

Charles Olengereza interviewing community members [photo credit: Charles Olengereza, Guardian News Tanzania]

Charles Ngereza interviewing community members [photo credit: Charles Ngereza, journalist, Tanzania]

To read more about the recent displacement of Maasai, click here.


A Too Common Occurrence: Maasai Land Theft by Safari Company in Northern Tanzania

Reposted from the Cultural Survival Quarterly, 38-4 Indigenous Rights Protect Us All (December 2014)

Cattle in disputed land [photo credit: Cultural Survival]

Cattle in disputed land [photo credit: Cultural Survival]

The expansive landscapes and large wildlife populations of Ngorongoro District in Northern Tanzania, which borders Serengeti National Park, make it a leading area for Tanzania’s tourism industry. But the scenic beauty and pastoral ideal belie a much more complex and conflict ridden reality. For the land and the Maasai who have traditionally inhabited it, the past hundred years have been characterized by marginalization and loss. The story of Sukenya Farm is just one such example.

The Beginning: Sukenya Farm

Soitsambu, Sukenya, and Mondorosi villages are located in Loliondo Division, Ngorongoro District, and are predominantly Maasai pastoralist communities. Land is managed according to seasonal patterns of resource availability, which are largely dependent on rainfall and governed by rotational grazing reserve systems. In 1984 Tanzania Breweries Ltd. (TBL) obtained 10,000 acres within the boundaries of Mondorosi and Sukenya villages, a property that came to be known known as Sukenya Farm. During this period, fraudulent land allocations were widespread throughout northern Tanzania and in Loliondo in particular. While TBL apparently obtained dispensation from the district and regional government to use the land, it did not obtain an official certificate of occupancy until 2004. This was for an increased area of 12,617 acres.

From the outset TBL only used about 700 acres, and in 1987 abandoned the land altogether. The three resident Maasai clans, the Purko (residents of Mondorosi), Loita (a minority clan in in Sukenya), and Laitayok (the majority of residents in Sukenya but a minority clan in the region) continued using the property as they always had: for season livestock pasture, critical watering points, temporary settlement during the rainy season, and access between subvillages.

The Conflict

The 2004 certificate awarded control of the land to TBL with a 99-year lease agreement backdated to October 2003. One of the conditions of the title was that the land be used for “plant and animal husbandry.” In 2006 TBL divested the remaining 96-year lease to a new American-owned tourism operation, Tanzania Conservation Ltd (TCL). Tanzania Conservation’s owners also own Thomson Safaris, a Massachusetts-based company that operates luxury tours on the disputed property, which it has developed into a private nature reserve known as Enashiva Nature Refuge.

According to the lawsuit brought in Tanzania by the affected villages, company security guards and police officers forcefully evicted the Maasai from the land, burning their bomas (livestock enclosures), destroying homes, and denying them access to the land. Since TBL had abandoned the land in question for more than 12 years, it should have reverted back to the local villagers. A Ngorongoro Conservation Area councilor commented, “We are like slaves in our own land. Natural resources have become like a curse to us; those benefiting are from afar while the real owners are suffering.’’ Said another: “The entire process of land acquisition is characterized by bribing, cheating, and dividing communities.”

With the access to Sukenya Farm prevented by TCL/Thomson Safaris, the communities’ herders were forced to make a 14-hour return trip to Kenya for water in the dry season. In addition, they lost access to a valuable grazing resource. Prohibiting community access to the land created a major conflict among the company, local government, and the villagers, the majority of whom consider that the land is still rightfully theirs to use.

Rising Tensions

The level of conflict between TCL/Thomson Safaris and local residents has markedly escalated in the last few years with numerous arrests and imprisonments, a shooting incident, and other alleged misconduct by the company’s employees and the police. Local civil society organizations and concerned individuals have attempted to help resolve the conflict, but thus far these attempts have failed, only increasing tension and mistrust.

In 2011 Soitsambu village sought to challenge TCL/Thomson Safaris’ right to the land with the support of Minority Rights Group International, the Legal and Human Rights Centre, and the Pastoral Women’s Council. While initially dismissed on a technicality, the case recommenced in 2013 and is due to be heard in mid-December. The villagers, assisted by EarthRights International, also petitioned US courts to obtain documents of the sale to support their Tanzanian court fight to recover their land, as well as damages for violent abuses and property destruction. “The land belongs to us whether we win the case or not. We have to use the land. We will never give up,” one community member said.

Maasai traditional leaders from across Ngorongoro district have gathered several times since 2013 in Sukenya village to discuss the conflict. One resolution was a strengthened collaboration among the three affected clans, which to date are still working together. Another was to ensure that the district council strongly support villages in the land fight. “We cannot keep quiet while our land is under the hands of land grabbers. It is our responsibility to see that land comes back at any cost,’’ said a council chairman.

An Uneasy Truce

In July 2014, herdsman Olunjai Timan was returning home from grazing his cattle near the disputed land when he was confronted by policemen and local TCL/Thomson Safari security guards. He was shot and left lying face down, alone. As news of the shooting spread through the villages 300 youth gathered in the night, prepared to enter the disputed land and burn the safari camp down. When elders heard the news they rushed to the stop them. They decided to pursue peaceful means instead of a confrontational approach, but the incident prompted the question, “What type of government is this that attacks its own citizens?”

At a council meeting after the shooting, a traditional leader implored the District Council: “I decided to stop my warriors from burning the camp because I want peace. There is no benefit for anyone to die now. We need this land for our cows and we can’t stop grazing or passing. Who are the legal owners? Those with only a piece of paper, or us who are born and living here for years?” Added a council member from Mondorosi, “We have just finished paying fines for the innocent herders who were told they trespassed in our land, and today one of us is shot again. We have to fight back and there is no way to keep quiet.” Echoing the sentiment, a youth leader averred, “We, the Maasai, are not those of 1959 when our grandfathers signed to be moved out of Serengeti. We will fight to the end. We will keep fighting for our land and rights.”

An uneasy truce has been reached between the villagers and Thomson Safari, as villagers are currently allowed to access the disputed land for grazing. They are wary that this permission may be removed at will, but hopeful that the upcoming hearing will turn that permission into a right, with ownership of the land finally returning to them.


In Tanzania

The most recent Tanzanian litigation commenced in 2013 by Soitsambu, Mondorosi, and Sukenya villages against Tanzania Breweries Ltd., Tanzania Conservation Ltd., the District Council, and the Commissioner for Lands. The villages are challenging the transfer of Sukenya Farm by TBL to TCL/Thomson Safaris, land that had been abandoned for over 17 years and continually used during that time by villagers for grazing, watering, and cultural rituals. The plaintiffs contend that ownership of the land reverted back to the villagers by adverse possession, that TBL had no right to transfer its certificate of occupancy, and that TCL/Thomson Safaris is therefore an illegal occupant. The villagers are seeking the revocation of TCL/Thomson Safaris’ certificate of occupancy and a claim for damages for the illegal occupation.

In Massachusetts

In February 2014, the Soitsambu, Mondorosi, and Sukenya village chairmen, assisted by EarthRights International, petitioned a federal court in Massachusetts for documents and testimony to support their fight in Tanzanian courts to recover lost land and damages for violent abuses and property destruction. The federal court granted the villagers’ application in April, ordering TCL/Thomson Safaris and the companies’ owners, Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland, to turn over documents and give sworn testimony about the sale of Sukenya Farm, the alleged home burnings and beatings, and the conversion of the land from Maasai grazing territory to a private reserve.


Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.


Large Landholders Scrutinized in Tanzania

Tanzania is calling on owners of large swaths of unused lands to disclose their plans for developing them, and those that do not offer adequate explanations risk having their lands repossessed by authorities.  This could be an attempt to curb the large-scale land acquisitions that are sweeping the country, many of which are left unattended for years so that they can be sold at a higher price.  These “land grabs” are displacing small farmers and Indigenous Peoples and threatening the social stability of the country.  In 2011, the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute estimated that 1,095 out of 1,825 land disputes in Tanzania involved large-scale land investments.

Land grabbing is not unique to Tanzania.  In September 2013, the Munden Project released a report analyzing 153 million hectares of commercial concessions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and found that 31 percent (worth an estimated $5 billion) overlap with local community land claims.  Customary tenure assessments should be conducted as a standard risk management tool prior to any large-scale land acquisitions, in order to reduce the likelihood that conflicts will disrupt, delay, or terminate operations.

Sources: Daily News, Inter Press Service, Business Mirror


In Our Modern World, Traditional Indigenous Knowledge is More Important Than Ever


By Britnae Purdy

Clearly the way we’re running things on earth is not headed in a good direction – the climate is changing, we’re nearing a drinking water crisis, and our food system is not sustainable. Juxtaposed with extreme poverty in much of the world, we see that the world’s three richest men have more wealth than the world’s 47 poorest countries combined.

But we haven’t given up hope yet. There’s a solution to many of our biggest problems. It may require a new way of thinking for most of us, but really, it’s a system of knowledge that is thousands of years old. We believe that traditional Indigenous knowledge has a lot to teach us, that an economy of ENOUGHNESS is not a relic, but is the best way to preserve the world for future generations. Does that sound a little too abstract for you? Allow us to provide some specific examples of how traditional Indigenous knowledge is being applied in very modern ways.

Health – Despite often being mischaracterized as “witchcraft” or “sorcery” and even banned from official practice in some countries, traditional medicine has survived for thousands of years. Traditional medicine is more than just a medical system – it is a holistic doctrine that places physical illness in a larger network of mental and emotional wellbeing and community health.  Today, many doctors realize that even the symbolic aspects of certain healing ceremonies and practices can have an important psychological impact on patients that contributes to healing. In Peru, one in three people still use traditional medicine, and in Africa, 7% of the average household budget goes towards traditional medicine. Today, traditional medicine is becoming more popular for a very practical reason – it is infinitely less expensive than the Western medicine system. According to the World Health Organization, 30% of the world’s population does not have regular access to basic medicines, and in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia this number is often greater than 50%. In Ghana and Zambia, there is one Western-trained doctor for every 20,000 people, whereas there is one traditional healer for every 200 people.

Many common cures and medicines that we use today were initially discovered by Indigenous peoples long ago. Examples include:

– The cinconcha tree produces quinine, which was used by the Quecha of Peru and Bolivia to treat fevers and muscle spasms. Quinine was one of the first known antidotes to malaria, and was widely used in treating malaria from the 1600s until the 1940s. Quinine is also used to treat arthritis and lupus.

– Long before it became a trendy weight loss pill, the San of southern Africa used the hoodia cactus to stave off hunger in times of low food

– Tumeric, whose active ingredient curcumin is used to treat a variety of chronic illness including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and arthritics, has been used for healing wounds in India as part of the Ayurvedic traditional health system, dating back thousands of years.

– Argoyapacha, which can be used to increase energy, has been used by the Kaani people of southern India for centuries to suppress fatigue and stress. It is also an Ayurvedic treatment for snake bites.

– The Uyghur people of Western China effectively treat kidney stones with fennel seed, watermelon seeds, maize style, and chicory seeds.


Agriculture – Indigenous practices of agriculture focus on growing necessary crops in a holistic and sustainable manner – far different from the capitalist system that emphasizes profit above health and sustainability. Many such systems focus on agricultural diversity – planting more than one variety of crop on the same land – which reduces risks associated with natural variability and weather, unlike monoculture farming. According to the UN Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Some examples of successful traditional agricultural practices that continue today include:

– Rice-fish co-culturing has been used in south China for over 1,200 years. Recently designated a “globally-important agricultural heritage system’ by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, this practice comingles fish with rice paddies. While the fish eat and remove harmful rice pests, the rice helps to regulate the fish’s environment. This results in both healthier rice and fish populations, and has been shown to reduce the need for pesticides by 68% and chemical fertilizer by 24%.

– Traditional farmers in Tanzania plant their maize, beans, and wheat around pits surrounded by ridges. During the rainy season, these pits act as reservoirs to prevent surface runoff, thus protecting the crops and also preserving the quality of the soil for future planting.

– Farmers in Northern Thailand employ a complex system of landscaping that includes home gardens, grazing land for cattle, sacred areas, rice paddies, and a tree line that serves as a forest break and wildlife path. In this way, communities are able to provide for all of their needs without destructing the land or disturbing local wildlife.

– Rainwater harvesting, a traditional practice which is thought to be at least 6,500 years old, was revived in the Rajasthan state of India in 1970 as a response to severe drought and depletion of drinking water, and has been improving agriculture ever since.


Conservation – Indigenous peoples have an invested interest in protecting wildlife populations. Modern conservation methods often call for removing Indigenous peoples from their lands to create spaces free of human occupation to protect the wildlife population – resulting in over 20 million people being displayed in the name of conservation! However, Indigenous peoples have been living in harmony with their animal neighbors since time immemorial, and studies have shown that areas under traditional Indigenous stewardship have healthier wildlife populations than those under modern conservation. As the world’s ecosystems are facing the harms of climate change, paying attention to these time-proven methods is more important than ever. Some examples of how Indigenous practices can improve wildlife conservation include:

– Traditional fire management has been practice by Indigenous peoples cross Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, and Mexico. This practice involves periodically sparking controlled burns to create a patchwork of burnt sections across a forest or plains. This prevents the massive, rolling wildfires that we now often hear about in the news, and also promotes new forest growth and soil improvement, as ash from the controlled burns enhances soil quality and facilitates regeneration. Now, in Australia, Aboriginals can even use controlled burning to earn carbon credits, both enhancing the ecosystem and providing new employment opportunities

– Locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs) have proven to be one of the most effective ways of combat ecosystem destruction in the Pacific islands. In an LMMA, coastal communities are able to enact policies and guideline to protect marine animals and reefs. Because the Indigenous communities are the ones who interact with the seas on a daily basis and have a shared history of the area, they are able to decide on the most effective protective measures. These measures often include species-specific prohibitions on hunting, seasonal and area closures to create networks of wildlife refuges, gear restrictions, and behavioral prohibitions. These are often complemented by a community’s own totemic food restrictions and also allows the community to maintain sacred sites and tabu areas.

– An amazing example of the possible cooperation between modern technology and traditional knowledge is the use of animal herd management currently underway in the Arctic. While scientists are using remote satellite sensing, and modeling to track the patterns and movements of herd animals, they are also consulting with Sami and Nenet reindeer herders, who are more observant on complex changes in the environment and within herds.

Cultural and LinguisticThis one is a little less quantitative, but just as important. Indigenous peoples have rich, deep cultures and traditions, and allowing these to degenerate is doing a great disservice to our collective humanity. As Gaston Donnat Bappa, a chief from the Bambini region of Cameroon, explains, the world is “enriched by its Indigenous peoples, its oral culture perpetuated by the storytellers, its proverbs, myths and legends, its totems, sorcerers and patriarchs, and by its connections with the dead through funerary ceremonies and funerals. It is enriched by its animism at the source of its specific spirituality…by its unalterable, inexhaustible arts and crafts, its folklore, songs, dances, its communitarianism, and by the communicative ‘joie de vivre’ which characterises its people.” Indigenous languages play an integral part in facilitating all of the above-mentioned issues, and Indigenous languages are often able to convey subtleties and nuances about nature, the weather, healing properties of plants, and human behavior that dominant languages do not. Still looking for some hard facts? How about this – a 2007 study showed that among Indigenous communities in British Columbia, communities where a majority of members had conversational knowledge of the Indigenous language had low youth suicide rates, whereas communities where less than half of the members spoke the native language had youth suicide rates up to six times higher.

Convinced yet? Join us in our ENOUGHNESS campaign. First Peoples works directly with Indigenous communities around the world. Your donation will provide grants to support sustainable development projects that can make the world a better place for us all.

(Photo credit:


Maasai Runner Survived Boston Marathon Bombings, Now Fighting to Fund Education in His Village


By Isaya Lukumay and Michele Christle, Cultural Survival

On April 16, 2013, Isaya Lukumay (Maasai), president and founder of The Warriors Organization (TWO), was one of the thousands of runners participating in the Boston Marathon. A corporate sponsor pledged funds necessary to build a two-room schoolhouse in his home village of Eluai, Tanzania, but since then has failed to deliver on the promise. Several weeks after the marathon, Lukumay spoke with TWO board member Michele Christle about the tragic events.

The night before the marathon I was very excited. We eat a lot of food in Maasailand, but not as much as I ate that night. I had a big pasta dinner with roasted spaghetti and a Tanzanian sauce with tomato and onions. The next morning I woke up early. I felt powerful and confident. My wife dropped me off. I talked with the faster runners. I was talking to Lelisa Desisa Benti, the guy who won. I asked him about his experience running marathons. “It’s my work,” he said, “It’s what I get paid for. I have to win. If I don’t, I don’t make money.”

The gun went off and the race began. I was in the third wave of runners. It was great to see everybody running together. [After] I had already run a half marathon, I felt miserable. I didn’t stop though, because I knew if I stopped I might not keep going. I was telling myself, You have to be strong, finish, make your goal. I thought of my siblings and knew I couldn’t stop.

When I was in back in Tanzania in January, I saw my younger sisters trying to get to school. They don’t know how to read or write, we don’t have a real teacher there. The teachers they bring to the schools on Maasailand are from the city. They don’t speak Maa, only Swahili. They are teaching five year olds who can’t even speak Swahili. In Tanzania, every year of school counts. If you fail the exam at the end of primary school, you are never allowed another opportunity to pass into secondary school. These kids have never seen a book or a conventional classroom. They can’t
understand the teacher. After three years of school, they can only say “jambo” and “safari.”

Thinking about how many would benefit from the money we were raising motivated me. I had a picture in my head of the children in Eluai, happy, studying, empowered. This was a big opportunity for me to support these kids. I wasn’t thinking about running, I was thinking about opportunity.

I finished Heartbreak Hill and around Copley Square, I was three miles from the finish line. I said to one guy who was slowing down, “Keep going, don’t stop. You’re almost there!” I kept going and I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t stop thinking about how great it was, just seeing what I had done and how it would affect my community back in Tanzania. I walked around for about 15 minutes, trying to get my stuff and find my wife.

I was about 100 feet from the finish line when I saw these two big clouds of smoke and heard a big sound. It looked like something had collapsed. Five seconds later, there was another boom. I thought, holy crap, what am I seeing? I thought it was the trains underground, that the land was collapsing. The whole area was becoming a mess. Everything was mixed up. My wife was supposed to be at the finish line, in the family area. She’s there waiting for me, I’m thinking. I’m freaking out. The place is full of people. Is this real or am I going crazy? I have seen bombs explode on TV, but not in real life. I was shocked. I couldn’t think. For five minutes, I couldn’t move.

Everything was black with smoke. I was so scared that something had happened to my wife. Finally, out of the crowd, she came running to me, crying. I was trying not to go crazy. It took us 45 minutes to get out of there. It was a hell of a day. It was a good day until the bomb. After that, everything changed. Everything. Later, I was sitting on the sofa, watching the coverage. I saw the guy I had told to keep going when we were still three miles from the finish line. When the explosions went off, he fell two feet from the finish line. I’m looking at him, thinking, I talked to him! I was shocked, shaking. He must have stopped and walked. My mind was exhausted from trying to calm down.

It took a long time be able to think about this on a personal level. And now what I’m thinking about is the impact these events have had on my community. When something bad happens, you just have to start moving again. You don’t look back. When you face challenges like this, you need to keep moving. If I didn’t have something to believe in, I wouldn’t have moved for a long time.
When I found out that my corporate sponsor didn’t follow through on their promises, it was very disappointing. People here don’t know much about the situation in Tanzania. It takes a long time to fully understand when you haven’t been there yourself. If you eat with us, if you see the brown water we have to drink, you know us and this helps people to follow through with funds. If people know what’s really going on, they take it seriously.

At first I wanted to go back to Tanzania, but I didn’t because I don’t believe in quitting. I believe in confidence. I was running to accomplish something, thinking that there would be money raised. All of the time I was training for the marathon, and when I was running it, I had dreams of what this would mean for my community. To have survived that day and not to have anything to give the children in my village is difficult. I wouldn’t have run the marathon if I had known that I was risking my life and that no money was raised.

My mom used to tell me a story about a strong warrior. He and his fellow warriors were in conflict with another tribe over cattle. He took 105 warriors with him to take back their cattle. They didn’t expect any trouble but the other tribe attacked them. They were all fighting and they lost 50 people. The warrior was going crazy because all they were supposed to care about was the cattle and everyone had gotten consumed with fighting. Then he got shot too, and fell down. All the warriors huddled around him. “We came here for the cows, we did not come here to fight. We have the cows. Now we just need to get back home together,” he said. And they went back with the cows. I always think about that story.

I ran the marathon to raise money for the school in my village. I didn’t know that the bomb was going to happen or that we would not get the funding. But I know that great warriors never give up; they move on past whatever bad things come to them. I will keep fighting.

For more information about The Warriors Organization, visit: or

(Photo: Aric Gutnick; Isaya Lukumay greets a village elder)


Maasai of Tanzania Threatened by Big Game Hunters and Conservationists Alike


by Britnae Purdy

The Loliondo region of northern Tanzania lies along a primary migratory route of the continent’s famed wildebeest, zebra, and antelope herds. The 4,000 square kilometer area is nestled between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, both national treasures meant to protect the splendid African wildlife. When you think of Africa, this is what you picture.

Your mental image is probably lacking one key element though – the fact that Loliondo is occupied by people, 60,000 Maasai, to be exact, as well as by animals. And both Maasai and wildlife alike are being hunted by profiteers.

In 1992, the Maasai of Loliondo were accused of settling illegally in the area and were ordered to move – at the same time that the government granted a hunting concession to the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC), owned by United Arab Emirate royalty. Since that time, OBC has freely used the land for elitist hunting expeditions, while the Maasai are being edged out of their traditional lands.

Earlier this year, the Tanzanian government proposed creating a wildlife corridor in Loliondo, supposedly to ensure the safe migration of wildlife. If created, this corridor would displace 30,000 people and affect tens of thousands whose cattle graze in the area. The Maasai are traditional pastoralists, and cattle “provide milk, meat, blood, and can even be used as currency. Their survival is the community’s survival.” More than 90 percent of Loliondo’s Maasai depend on the seasonal grasses in this area to feed their livestock, and the proposed wildlife corridor would restrict their access to almost 40 percent of Loliondo’s highland prairie and forested mountains.

According to a report from Cultural Survival, “the wildlife corridor was proposed by the Ministry [for Natural Resources and Tourism] for public and international interests, expanding tourism and activity to the area, as well as increasing the Otterlo Business Corporation’s access to big game hunting. OBC benefits from a hunting concession in Loliondo, allowing the corporation to hunt game frequently on the lands designated for the Maasai.” The Minister has visited Loliondo four times since announcing the plan, with each visit met with protests from community members. On March 25, a community meeting was held, at which the Maasai resolved to “end the presence of OBC and its use of Maasai natural resource’s at the group’s cost, [seek the] resignations of politicians in the event of the establishment of the corridor, file a representative suit resisting the evacuation of the corridor and seeking a return to the Serengeti, and [establish a] combination of community tasks and media strategy to draw greater awareness to the current issue.”

On March 26, Khamis Kagasheki, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, announced that the government would provide social services to the Maasai, but also continue with plans to evict them from 1,500 square kilometers of land for the creation of the corridor.

OBC claims that they were originally promised all 4,000 square km of Loliondo, so the 1,500 kilometer plan is a concession to the Maasai.

Restricting the 60,000 Maasai of to area along with their livestock will likely place severe strains on natural resources. The Maasai have already had to battle the government for access to key resources such as water. In 2009, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete sent national police to help OBC block Maasai herders from reaching a vital water source near OBC’s hunting land during a severe drought. The Maasai say that more than half of their cattle died as a result. The government and OBC reasoned that they only block Maasai access to water during hunting season, saying that allowing them on hunting ground during this time may result in accidental shootings. Hunting season, which runs from July to December, coincides with the dry season.

The Maasai only hunt in times of extreme hunger. In fact, they much prefer to avoid the wildlife population – wildebeests carry a disease that is extremely dangerous to their cattle herds. Many are now reasonably fearing that the government’s plan to make a conservation corridor is only a guise under which they can create a limited-access “game-controlled” playground for high spenders.

As the Maasai Association states, “The new land management system has economically polarized our people; some Maasai, as well as outside wealthy individuals, have substantially increased their wealth at the expense of others. The largest loss of land, however, has been to national parks and reserves, in which the Maasai people are restricted from accessing critical water sources, pastures, and salt licks. Subdivisions of Maasailand reduced the number of cows per household, and reduced food production. As a result, the Maasai society, which was once a proud and self-sufficient society, is now facing many socio-economic and political challenges. The level of poverty among the Maasai people is beyond conceivable height. It is sad to see a society that had a long tradition of pride being a beggar for relief food because of imposed foreign concepts of development. The future of the Maasai is unknown at this point.”

More than one million Maasai live in Kenya and Tanzania, and they have been subjected to repeated forced evictions since the 1960s. First Peoples has made several grants to Maasai projects in the Loliondo region over the years, including to the Mara Widows Development Group to hold learning exchange programs between the Indigenous villages, the Pastoral Women’s Council to enhance community livelihood and rights attainment, and the Indigenous Heartland Association to increase Indigenous participation in the management of Ngorongoro National Park and stop the development of tourist expedition to sacred sites.

Indeed, the project may be at a crossroads. President Kikwete is scheduled to step down from the presidency in the 2015 elections, after two terms in office during which he has repeatedly catered to OBC. OBC, in their defense, claim that they have invested in the region, building a hospital, schools, and five boring holes over the past twenty years. Meanwhile, the government has ordered an official census to be taken of the Loliondo Maasai, and has dispatched 30 officers to record the actual number of Maasai, their livestock, and their settlements in the area. The purpose of this is still unknown; many Maasai distrust government censuses and purposely misreport their numbers.

According to CNN, the Maasai are resolved. “They say each move eroded their livelihoods and way of life. This time they will not be moved, whatever the consequences.”