Abraham Isaya is a 53-year-old Maasai traditional leader (Laigwenan) from Kitwai village in Simanjiro District. Simanjiro is located in the northeast region of Tanzania. As a Laigwenan, Abraham is not only responsible for migration decisions affecting his boma’s herd (shared by himself, his two brothers and their families), but also advises the entire village on such decisions. In addition, Abraham is Chairperson of Simanjiro District Grazing Areas Management Committee set up in 2016 by Enabel’s Maisha Bora program. In this role, he has influence over the 18,400 pastoral households, roughly 1.2 million animals and 1.6 million hectares that make up Simanjiro’s pastoral ecosystem. For Abraham, his village, and the entire district, decisions on migration is not only critical to the long-term survival of their herds, but the health of the land they rely on.
In December of 2020, Abraham was introduced to AfriScout and was immediately convinced it could help improve grazing practices and give him an important tool to support him in his role as both Laigwenan and Chairperson of the grazing committee. He has been involved in all stages of the mapping and verification process and has been a strong advocate for AfriScout’s use among fellow traditional leaders and pastoral communities. He recently shared his experiences on Orkonorei radio, a popular local station favoured among pastoralists.
“In my village, before Afriscout, we used to send scouts to Elenore (a traditional grazing area) to conduct reconnaissance visits and assess this distant grazing area. The scouts must do this for all important grazing areas before we (traditional leaders) meet to discuss and make decisions on which area to prohibit or allow grazing. The process took a lot of time, and sometimes were forced to make decisions based on experience, which is very vague and unreliable under prevailing erratic and patchy rains” Abraham explained. “Since Simanjiro was included in the Afriscout app, it has been easy for me and my fellow traditional leaders to track what is happening and thus make more accurate decisions on which areas to forbid grazing due to grass conditions.”
Because users can also interactively share geolocated information on prevailing challenges or hazards, AfriScout can provide a wide array of information crucial to herd management, livelihood security and safety in general. Abraham explained that nowadays, there are many happenings in grazing areas. Tukutaa has been frequented by wildebeests and the predators that prey upon them. The Kimotorok plains have recently been flooded. The Orprikata rangelands, which is one of the only dry season grazing areas, experienced fires last summer, and areas around some villages have been invaded by inedible weeds like Gugu Karoti (Parthenium spp). All these pose threats to pastoralists and their herds. Without AfriScout, dissemination of this information and avoidance of these dangers would be much more difficult.
“For example, in October 2020, the Oprikata grazing area was inflamed by bush fires. The incident was promptly posted on the AfriScout app by a fellow pastoralist. While we had access to this information, many pastoralists in areas of Kiteto and Kilindi district that also use this grazing area did not and erroneously migrated there only to find bare plain. I wish they could have had AfriScout to make informed herd migrations. AfriScout doesn’t tell you what decision to make but gives you instant information so we can make appropriate decisions on how to manage grazing areas and our herds” Abraham explained.
To date, over 19,000 pastoralists like Abraham who have downloaded and used AfriScout across 3 countries (Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya). A typical user will open the application 2-4 times each month to see what’s happening within their communities and on average will share that information with 6 other families. By using AfriScout, Abraham is not only preserving a way of life, but improving his role as a leader. With timely and accurate information at his fingertips, Abraham and the communities he supports can make better decisions for their household, their herds and the land that sustains them.