The struggle to find employment is 28-year-old Peter’s biggest problem. He has even left Oloitokitok at times to go to Tanzania to do “just manual work… not work that was permanent”. His wife and two children are “fed and clothed by the strength of the Lord”. He is frustrated at “wasting time” without work, yet says getting a job “depends on who you know”.
He sees education as crucial: “We all want to read so we can lift ourselves out of the poverty of our family.” He would like to go to college “to study community work” but has not been able to raise the funds.
Along with education and employment, Peter’s preoccupations include seasonal water shortages, which mean the Maasai people “cannot even farm”, poor roads and lack of electricity. He complains that corruption and embezzled funds has led to the failure of the authorities to improve the local road system or to keep their promise to vaccinate livestock.
I was born in 1979. Our family is big. My father has six wives and…the children are many. Some [wives] have six children – my mother had six. There are some that have five and others that have three children.
I went to secondary school until Form 4. I finished in 2002. Since I finished, I have concerned myself with finding a job… I have tried. I have gone to Tanzania… I would get a small job and work there for several months and come back to Kenya. Manual work, just manual work…not work that was permanent.
I came back to Kenya and have tried to look for jobs here but they are not to be found. Even in the tourist lodges they cannot be found… So now I do not have any work. I have a wife and two children – the girl is four and the boy six – and they are fed and clothed by the strength of the Lord.
Lacking money for college
I was supposed to go on with my education but my family did not have the money. I tried to look for work in these group ranches, or somewhere like the county council. Those are the places that can help you and give you 20,000 or 10,000 shillings… But college is maybe 100,000 shillings – I did not have the money to help me pay the balance of 80,000…
Even at secondary school, it was my uncle who helped me from Form 1 until I finished. From there my father did not have the capacity to educate me further… I really wanted to study community work. I’d really like that…
[Lack of teachers] is the biggest problem… Recently we went to Kimana Primary and we found 1,700 children and just 16 teachers. We also had a baraza (public meeting) — the headmaster called us to ask us what to do about this.
“Education is the key”
There is one younger sister who is in Form 4 now and that is only…with the help of God, because the parents owe a lot of fees… There is another one who finished Form 4, the third wife’s child, and we are expecting something good…because he has been doing well from Form 1… But I do not know how he will go on because there is no money. We all want to read so we can lift ourselves out of the poverty of our family.
Our older siblings – none of them have gone to school. They just go and get married and other people’s fathers bring them a wife or two, three – and they go on with that life… It was me who started going to school in our home, and the younger ones carried on with it… Even the one that has just finished Form 4, it was me who was helping from when I was in Tanzania. I used to send him like 5,000 or 4,000 shillings, because in Form 2 he was about to lose interest in completing secondary education.
I believe that education is the key – to come out of poverty you need education… My father had wealth but he did not have that sense to take care of the wealth. [If he had] he would have educated the older children and they would have been the ones helping us pay for college now. So the issues in my family are huge… Also our cattle are almost finished, so now you must use your head to survive…
Those [siblings] that are younger than me – there is one that is in Form 1 now [and] I tell him to stop playing around and that maybe it is this education that is the one thing that will remove us from poverty… If it was me that had had the chance to go to school I would have done those things that I mentioned, [and] these people would not have a problem with fees because I would have helped them here and there.
“You get work according to who you know”
Amboseli National Park helps with bursaries for the children… Another thing is the young people get jobs [in the lodges]… But it depends on who you know, because I have an uncle who is there and he can look for a job for me… These days you get work according to who you know. If you have someone there that knows you, they can put a word in for you and there is a probability that you will get [the job]…
We complain about this in public meetings, but the problem is…with their [group ranch] committee. The head of the committee will go and bring his child, [and then his] cousin, until they all get the jobs.
“A big water problem”
[Another] problem that we have here is that…we have water in plenty from the first month until the seventh, but when it gets to the eighth month the water reduces and we cannot even farm. We have to wait for it to rain and for the water to fill the river again. So here in Kimana we have a big water problem – for irrigation and for drinking…
[When there is no rain] we concern ourselves with business, small businesses. Usually there are vegetables, tomatoes here. But there is also a market here every Tuesday so the old men get a chance to bring their goats so that they can get something small… We also depend on the livestock…the goats, cows and sheep. We depend on those animals because they are the ones that sustain us.
“We know that there is corruption”
[Livestock diseases] have started affecting us badly. Recently we were told that here in Kimana 15,000 cows would be inoculated [and] 30,000 goats… no goat or cow would lack an injection.
But the cows injected are not yet 700, and the goats are not yet 1,000. We have complained very much… I called the chief and told him to come because the vets were saying that the medicine was finished, but they had announced that the medicine was to be [enough] for 10,000 cows and 30,000 goats – even the announcements on the radio said that the medicine was going to be free because of the threat of Rift Valley Fever.
“Now we have all gathered together to bring our goats and cows,” [we said], “four hours are not even over yet, and you said it would last two days, and you are saying that the medicines are finished! Where did the medicines go?”
We know that there is corruption; corruption is going on. I, Peter, asked the veterinary officer in front of the chief vet – I did not hide my feelings. I told them that there is corruption – and there was no one who answered me. We were very angry and some of us lost goats and cows [on the journey]. They should not have told us to bring them [and raised our hopes], because losing a cow or a goat is a terrible thing.
Lack of infrastructure
We have sung the song about roads for a long time. We were given a road in 1992, but some of those responsible for that money…they used it. It was supposed to be built with tarmac, from Emali to the end of Oloitokitok, but they just tarmacked a small portion in Oloitokitok. So now we have a very big problem with the roads. If we had that tarmac, I believe that in another five years we would be very far ahead…
[Also] there is no electricity in this area. If they put in electricity for us we would again be very far ahead, because there would be many businesses. Many people would be able to open their own business.
We get newspapers, [and] they have started trying to expand the radio. I have seen that KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) have opened here and we can hear it.
There are two hospitals. There is one in Oloitokitok and one here in Kimana. The state of the hospitals is not bad; we are treated well. But sometimes in the hospital you get a prescription and you are told to go and buy specific medicines from a specific chemist, and when you go to the chemist you find that it belongs to those doctors… However, the few doctors that are there have helped us a lot… So there is only that problem here in the hospitals.
“I see that AIDS kills”
About AIDS here, it has affected very many people. If AIDS had started here, we Maasai would all have been finished. Because, in Maasai culture, if I know that we are in the same age group, your wife is my wife and my wife is your wife – it is because we are in the same age group.
There are VCTs (voluntary counselling and testing centres) here and people are educating themselves about HIV and AIDS, they are shown tapes about it. I see that AIDS kills… We have many orphaned children… We help them as a family. Here, even if the child’s father has died of AIDS…you raise them as you would your own. You cannot separate them [from yours] because they are children. It would be a sin…
“Just wasting time”
I wake up in the morning – I do not have a job so maybe I just greet my neighbours. I ask them how they slept – just wasting time until it gets to 1pm. At lunchtime I go to town…to try and find a way of making a living.
Or I go and visit my neighbours. After that maybe I farm the neighbour’s land, because we do not have a farm of our own… Maybe this month I [will] plant maize, so that would mean I wake up to go straight to the farm. In a way I am a farmer, I talk to the neighbours and they allow me to go into their farms to plough. When it is ready we divide [the produce]. My wife does not have a job.
I expect the Lord to open a way for me…I want to get a job, get money, help my people, my neighbours, and those that cannot support themselves.
This interview has been specially edited for the web and cut down by more than half. Some re-ordering has taken place: square brackets indicate ‘inserted’ text for clarification; round brackets are translations / interpretations; and dots indicate cuts in the text. The primary aim has been to remain true to the spirit of the interview, while losing questions, repetition, and confusing or overlapping sections.