Generating pastoral skills through work and play in the daily life of maasai children in Kenya

Pastoralists in East Africa are well known for their abilities in effective livestock and natural resource management in the dynamic arid and semi-arid ecosystem in which they live. Their ethnobiological knowledge, manifest in their skills of managing livestock and natural resources, is generated from the daily experiences of individuals in different landscapes. Since the early twentieth century, the pastoralist Maasai have gradually experienced land fragmentation and lifestyle changes. However, how Maasai children learn ethnobiological knowledge and how their learning processes are related to the local accessibility of their land remain largely unknown. Focusing on eleven children’s daily activities during long school vacations in a Maasai village, where lands are still communally owned, this paper aims to understand the children’s ethnobiological knowledge learning and its relation to access to land in current social contexts. The children independently undertake work, such as livestock herding and food preparation, as well as engaging in various play activities. With access to the land, they continue generating ethnobiological knowledge in different spatial and temporal contexts during work and play. The results of this study illustrate that access to the land plays important roles in current Maasai societies in terms of children’s ethnobiological knowledge learning. The study also suggests the necessity for further investigation of the relationship between land use changes and the ethnobiological knowledge learning of children in different small-scale societies. © 2018 Society of Ethnobiology. All rights reserved.

Pastoralists in East Africa are well known for their abilities in effective livestock and natural resource management in the dynamic arid and semi-arid ecosystem in which they live. Their ethnobiological knowledge, manifest in their skills of managing livestock and natural resources, is generated from the daily experiences of individuals in different landscapes. Since the early twentieth century, the pastoralist Maasai have gradually experienced land fragmentation and lifestyle changes. However, how Maasai children learn ethnobiological knowledge and how their learning processes are related to the local accessibility of their land remain largely unknown. Focusing on eleven children’s daily activities during long school vacations in a Maasai village, where lands are still communally owned, this paper aims to understand the children’s ethnobiological knowledge learning and its relation to access to land in current social contexts. The children independently undertake work, such as livestock herding and food preparation, as well as engaging in various play activities. With access to the land, they continue generating ethnobiological knowledge in different spatial and temporal contexts during work and play. The results of this study illustrate that access to the land plays important roles in current Maasai societies in terms of children’s ethnobiological knowledge learning. The study also suggests the necessity for further investigation of the relationship between land use changes and the ethnobiological knowledge learning of children in different small-scale societies. © 2018 Society of Ethnobiology. All rights reserved.

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