Skip to content

The Maasai tribe goes mobile

by on July 24, 2010

When I traveled to Tanzania in 2007, I had the privilege to meet and learn more about the Maasai, a semi-nomadic tribe that has become one of the more recognizable local tribes because of their close association with tourists’ African safari experiences. Although they are not a large group with an estimated population of around one million in Kenya and northern Tanzania, the tribe’s popularity has been fueled by their distinctive clothing and customs, one of which includes their young men hunting lions as a sign of bravery and rite of passage to become a Maasai warrior. The Maasai tribesmen have cut back on hunting lions and a number of them have gone on to pursue more mainstream careers (it just so happened that my Mt Kilimanjaro and safari guides were both Maasai), however most of them have stayed true to their tribal traditions and make their living from raising cattle.

The Maasai tribal life revolves around their cattle, and this is reflected in aspects of their rich tradition that has been passed down for generations. Tepilit ole Saitoti, a famous Maasai writer once said “Without the land and cattle, there will be no Maasai.” Their cattle-herding tradition permeates through different aspects of the Maasai lifestyle and social status. For example, the tribe measures a man’s wealth not by money or material possession but by the size of his cattle. For this paternalistic group, the size of the cattle also determines how many wives a man can have since he’ll need help taking care of a large herd (it is not uncommon for a fairly prosperous Maasai herder to have two to three wives). Even hunting lions, especially back in the days when they were more prevalent in Africa, was a way to protect the Maasai warrior’s grazing cattle and protect his family’s main source of food.  The cattle’s milk and blood (drawn from the neck and patched up for the animal to recover) are the main source of protein for a traditional Maasai family to this day.

As mobile devices become more commonplace in Kenya—there are almost 20 million cell phone subscribers in the country, which translates to almost  50% market penetration—it was only a matter of time that the technology reaches the tradition Maasai people, even those in the most remote locations. Mobile technology has actually proven to be very beneficial for the traditional tribe. The Kenyan government is leveraging mobile devices to help the Maasai cope with one of Kenya’s worst drought in history that has threatened their ability to graze and water their cattle. With the help of mobile devices and information shared by researchers, herders can find out where to bring their cattle instead of roaming for hundreds of miles in search water and pasture.

For those who live in more remote areas, the Maasai recharge their phones using solar panels provided by the government or diesel generators.  Besides getting information about grazing lands and watering holes, the Maasai also use their phones to trade and find the best deals when selling or trading cattle. They also use the phones to contact doctors or get medical help, which are not readily available in their remote villages.

Because of the ubiquity of mobile phones and the remoteness of some of the Maasai villages, the tribe has also started using mobile phone-based money transfers through a Safaricom service called M-Pesa.  This has helped the Maasai, who often live miles away from banks and are usually on long grazing trips with their cattle. To take it to another level, mobile banking has been introduced through a new service called M-Kesho, which allows Kenyans to use SMS to manage their money, transfer money to their M-Pesa accounts, pay bills and even open micro-credits.

I think this is only the beginning for how the Maasai can use mobile phones.

The government and conservation organization should encourage the Maasai to help track and avoid wildlife by using systems such as the Wild Life Tracker online. These systems can notify subscribers, such as the Maasai herders, via their mobile phones when a predator is seen in their area. This will help conservationists who are trying to work with the Maasai to limit the number of lion killings, which has increased as the tribe retaliates when the big cats prey on their cattle, especially as the drought has shrunk their source of wild food and everyone’s water source.

As more Maasai tribe members get connected via mobile phones, it is not hard to imagine them embracing other applications. For example, the Maasai would benefit from a mobile Twitter service to notify them about safari sightings of predators and weather reports. Perhaps a mobile applications that provides e-Bay-like services would help the Maasai trade, sell and buy cattle more efficiently, finding the best deal across remote villages without leaving their homes. A mobile-based Facebook-like site, something like the newly launched  Africa-based Whive social networking site, would help the Maasai connect with other tribe members in Kenya, Tanzania and around the world and strengthen their sense of community and tradition in an increasingly globalized world.

For the same price as a goat, mobile phones are becoming an affordable way for Maasai tribe members to take advantage of modern day technologies without losing their wonderful, rich traditions.


From → Kenya

  1. Very informative post, Roela! How awesome that you got to see firsthand the Maasai tribe! I am still in awe of seeing pictures/videos of these rural farmers on their mobile phones, and it’s amazing how much the technology is benefiting their lives. Through my online research, I came across the M-Pesa system of transferring money via cell phones, which has had a tremendous impact on Kenyans. Fascinating stuff!!

    • Thanks, Liz. I thought it was pretty impressive how the Maasai have kept their traditional way of living while leveraging new technology.

  2. Sheri D. permalink

    Roela – loved this post. It’s so interesting to see the juxtaposition of traditional tribes and modern day technology. I liked your suggestion of getting the government involved in some way to help protect wildlife… and strongly agree with your statement of making sure that they don’t lose their sense of tradition in the process of all of this.

    My post is on a similar topic but focused on the opposite spectrum of tribes… corporations and businesses.

    • Thanks, Sheri. I thought the photos of tribesmen using cell phones were pretty striking too. Did you see the YouTube video? I was impressed with how well the gentleman spoke English.

      I like your insights about Safaricom… do you think they just rushed just to say they’re on the social media bandwagon without really embracing the full customer service/relationships nature of the new Web 2.0 channels?

      • Sheri D. permalink

        They definitely rushed it. I strongly believe that the individual/corporation/whoever really needs to understand WHY social media is there and HOW they can use it to their greatest advantage, rather than jumping the bandwagon…blindly.

  3. I really enjoyed this post and how you took the reader into the world of the Maasai through sharing a personal experience and also supporting your point with great research. The way you brought the fact that the Maasai’s growing use of mobile together with some recommendations for where the future of this technology might go and how they might use it was excellent and completed this post. Very good work this week. (5)

  4. i love mobile phones that can surf the net in lightning fast speed`”`

  5. mobile phones that have built in cameras are my favorite because they can capture those special moments and events .-.

  6. Interesting article. Were did you got all the knowledge from…

  7. Hi, I’m badly disturbed about this and I’m not sure if this is the best stuff that could possibly occur. If you have little new informations about this please email me.(It is important to me)

  8. I used to be suggested this blog through my cousin. I am not sure whether this put up is written by way of him as no one else understand such targeted approximately my trouble. You’re incredible! Thank you!

  9. Hey, I don’t think saying this on your post The Maasai tribe goes mobile 2010 Global Marketing would be the proper place however I could not find a contact page form in your somewhat cluttered theme (i’m sorry). My visitors used to tell me exactly the same thing so I converted over to a different theme from I’ve only gotten compliments since. Best wishes, France Vester

  10. I think this is among the most important information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The site style is wonderful, the articles is really nice :-). Excellent job, many thanks,

  11. I like your web site. Cheers and continue the excellent work

  12. What would be your next topic next week on your blog

  13. Appreciating the persistence you put into your site and detailed information you present. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  14. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …

  15. hey there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the site a lot of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your high-quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for much more of your respective exciting content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  16. Only discovered a person internet site via yahoo and google as well as need to say I am truly amazed

  17. My wife and i have been satisfied Edward managed to deal with his basic research from your ideas he had out of your web page. It is now and again perplexing just to happen to be releasing strategies which often people today could have been trying to sell. We realize we now have you to give thanks to for this. Most of the illustrations you’ve made, the simple website navigation, the relationships you can give support to foster – it’s got all amazing, and it is letting our son in addition to us believe that the matter is pleasurable, and that’s pretty fundamental. Thank you for all the pieces!

  18. Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

  19. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

  20. How to add article to Joomla using a blackberry or other mobile device?

  21. Resin is scratch and chemical resistant, suitable for coated synthetic labels.

  22. Some genuinely howling work on behalf of the owner of this website , absolutely outstanding content .

  23. I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, thanks for all the great content.

  24. this is amazing, there are mobile phones everywhere now. good post, i’ve always been interested in africa

  25. I got what you intend, thanks for swing up. Woh I am glad to attain this website through google. Thanks For Share The Maasai tribe goes mobile 2010 Global Marketing.

  26. naturally like your web-site however you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I will definitely come again again.

  27. I have got one idea for your webpage. It looks like right now there are a few cascading stylesheet problems while opening a number of web pages in google chrome and opera. It is operating okay in internet explorer. Possibly you can double check this.

  28. It is in point of fact a great and helpful piece of information.

    I am satisfied that you just shared this useful info
    with us. Please keep us informed like this.

    Thank you for sharing.

  29. Every the moment inside a while we pick out blogs that we study. Listed below are the newest websites that we choose

  30. I blog frequently and I really thank you for
    your content. This article has truly peaked my interest.

    I will bookmark your website and keep checking for new
    information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.

  31. I’m not sure the place you’re getting your information, however great topic.

    I must spend some time studying much more or working out
    more. Thank you for magnificent information I was in search of this info for my mission.

  32. Probieren sie es einfach mal aus, klicken sie ein Livesex Frau an und sie
    werden erstaunt sein was sich dahinter alles verbirgt.
    Sie zeigte uns ihre dicken Brüste und wenig später auch diesen knackigen Fickarsch, diesen ich endlich sehen wollte.
    Keineswegs umsonst, setzen immer mehr namenhafte Erotikunternehmen, auf das World Wide

  33. Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues.
    It was definitely informative. Your site is very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

  34. You must try to find ways if the company where you will invest
    your money is reputable and credible not to deceit you.
    The differences between your site and the sites in the Top 10, these sites have SEO engineers working for
    it, understand SEO. However, saying is far easier
    than make it come true, because it demands nothing but hard efforts
    and above all the regular updates.

  35. Board shorts have a waistband that is usually held together by a lace tie, unlike swimming shorts that generally contain elastic waist bands, additionally there is a velcro fly. Unlike speedos or shorts for land, shorts are long and baggy. Surfers use wax on their surfboards to provide resistance against their feet. Without shorts covering a surfers legs, the surf wax could potentially stick to a surfers leg hair and then rip when attempting to stand up. Though made for functionality, the design of beach shorts is known to change more often based on the latest trends in popular clothing style. Shorts come in all different lengths. Boardshorts are held on by not one but two forms of closure. In addition, it is common for these shorts to have a small side pocket shut with velcro. Having a pocket on a pair of trunks is very effective for holding a car key when surfing. Board shorts are known for their loose and lengthy style. Though surf wax helps a surfer when standing on the board, it can accidentally harm them when kneeling on the board. Though made for functionality, the design of beach shorts is known to change more often based on the latest trends in popular clothing style. Shorts come in all different lengths. Some people wear swim wear exceptionally baggy. A persons fashion can be critiqued depending on their choice of swimwear.

  36. Kids Bean Bags Excellent thought processes you possess here.. sure, analysis is having to pay off. Actually practical viewpoint, appreciate your writing.. Respect the blog you furnished..

  37. pharmacy cytoxan nephrotic syndrome online
    tab alabama
    buy cytoxan online without presciption
    buy accutane mastercard in jacksonville accutane mastercard
    order online
    wie sicher ist differin consors
    abuse of cefixime 200mg in internet drug cod accepted canada
    generic lipothin weight loss in internet no prescription international
    pharmacy adapalene differin in internet paypal no rx arkansas
    want to buy cefixime in internet tablets without script
    buy brand cefixime online tablets overnight massachusetts
    gabapentin 10 40 cheap reality therapy epilepsy virtual neurontin 300mg

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Loch Lomond Log Cabins
  2. Buy SEO Backlinks
  3. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Marina Hyde
  4. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Marina Hyde | Latest News ChannelLatest News Channel
  5. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Marina Hyde | SME Website Solutions
  6. LED Lighting News » Blog Archive » The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Marina Hyde
  7. %post_,title% | %blog_title, %
  8. Why the Rude Cell-Phone Users Have Won
  9. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won
  10. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won – The Guardian | Everyday Worldwide
  11. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Mobile Phones Information Blog - Free Tips and Resources on How TO!!!
  12. The revolution is over: the rude mobile phone users have won | Marina Hyde | AKTK - AAJ KI TAZAA KHABAR
  13. Answering Karen’s Question @ Tanzania – this bowl of stars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: