The Drought that Changed Everything

For two terrible years (2008 – 2009), and sporadic rains since a drought brought on by climate change bore down on this proud and once wealthy community. 

Maasai women once knew prosperous lives with husbands who built vast herds. They milked cows, reared children and devoted ample leisure time to the intricate art of bead working with skills that made them world-renowned. 

Today these women struggle for meager earnings. They hike farther and farther away for firewood to sell at village markets. They dig ditches for bosses who break their spirits with insults and their bodies with six-hour shifts and no breaks. 

The sons and husbands of these women take jobs as security guards in far-away Nairobi and Mombasa. This dangerous line of work killed one husband two years ago. Some men drown their despair in drink, come home, and tear their families apart. 

People feel their bodies getting weaker on a daily diet of porridge. They can’t afford the school fees of twelve cents a day, so they keep their children at home.  

They face the question of survival every day.  

In spite of these hardships, they endure with a gracious and fighting spirit that is both inspirational and humbling. 

Steady income from beadwork allows these women to stay at home and care for their children.  It pays for food, school fees, and eventually the cows that create security and bind them together in cultural unity.

Grace stands in her empty corral that once held more than three hundred cows. She remains with only one.

We’ve been reduced to beggars. We suffer verbal abuse from the day labor field mangers as we hire ourselves out for just enough to feed our family porridge.  We feel degraded and tired.”