The Maasai of northern Tanzania live along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. Their warrior tradition, unique dress, customs, and residence near the East African game parks contribute to making the Maasai one of the Africa’s most well-known ethnic groups.
The Maasai live in “kraals”, or villages, arranged in a circular fashion. The fence around the kraal is made of acacia thorns for protection. It is a man’s responsibility to fence the kraal, while the women are tasked with constructing the home, or “enkaji”. Tradition building materials comprise of sticks, earth and cow dung. Kraals are traditionally shared by an extended family and run by an elder, or “chief”.
As Tanzania has developed, the semi-nomadic life-style of many Maasai has been disrupted. The Maasai Joy Children’s Centre serves a Maasai population that has been particularly hard-hit, as land in the Arusha region has become increasingly urbanized and is no longer available for grazing cattle. Without their cattle and with little or no formal education, many families have lost their reliable source of income. In addition to the poverty and despair arising from loss of livelihood, AIDS has decimated the once-strong family bonds, and many children in the village now come from broken families or are orphans.