Kilusu Siptek Laizer is a 50-year-old Maasai herder from Arkaria village in northern Tanzania. He has two wives (Nee and Nooreti), 9 children, a mother of 85 (Namelok) and two brothers along with their families, 28 in total, all living together in Kilusu’s Boma (cluster of houses).  Collectively, they share 120 cattle, 50 sheep and 30 goats, which provide the family with milk, meat and an income from sales of animals and by-products on the markets. 

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Kilusu with some of his children and his mother in Arkaria village in northern Tanzania.

Two of Kilusu’s sons, Letema and Samwel, are morani (scouts). They herd the livestock and search for pasture and water during dry season migrations. This means that they cannot regularly attend school. But the Afriscout app makes it easier to find migration areas, therefore allowing the scouts to have more time.

Grazing maps

In 2016, Kilusu started using grazing maps developed in a pilot by Project Concern International (PCI) and became convinced of their value. Kilusu uses the map to make more precise and intelligent decisions on where and when to migrate herds. Kilusu explains: 

“Now with AfriScout you just look at the map anytime and zoom out
  to see if there is still some water even in a small pond.” 

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Kilusu using the mobile app AfriScout to make more precise decisions on where and when to migrate herds.

Now Kilusu uses AfriScout, a mobile app developed by PCI, that enables him to consistently access high resolution vegetation maps of his local grazing lands. The initial paper maps, created together with the herding communities, have been uploaded in the App. They are now overlaid with satellite imagery to show current forage conditions, helping improve herd and rangeland management. Using these maps as a gauge for pasture conditions on the ground, Kilusu was able to better determine when and where to migrate with his animals to find better pasture. The maps even show the presence of surface water directly on his smartphone. 

Sharing geolocations = saving time

With the app Kilusu and other members of his community can share the geolocations of various hazards like animal diseases, predators, reports of conflict between herders and other land users, prohibited access areas, and more. At the moment, about 5 posts per week are posted in the app. This saves significant time and allows Kilusu and others to make more precise and collaborative decisions for the benefit of their herds, their families, and the land. 

“Shepherding the herd, especially during dry season is a tough job,” Kilusu explains, “scouts have to travel to search for areas with good pasture and water and bring the information back to us elders. With this information we try to come to an agreement with elders in the host community in areas where pasture is available and then allow the scout to migrate with the herd. All this takes a lot of time and money.” 

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Kilusu with his sons Letema and Samwel.

Now, with the digital AfriScout maps in the palm of his hand, Kilusu claims, “I no longer need my two sons to do the job. One can handle the work alone.” Without the need to spend countless days searching for pasture and aimlessly moving the herd. Samwel goes to secondary school during the week and works with his older brother, Letema, to take care of the herd on the weekends. 

Healthier rangelands

Users of the AfriScout app say that it is a useful tool for making decisions. They can choose to have a smaller but better conditioned herd instead of investing in maintaining a large number of animals. Kilusu says the following on this: 

“The application helps us do away with the practice of keeping a large herds as security against mortalities in case of drought or disease outbreak.” 

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Kilusu's wife Nooreti milking cow.

This is a positive evolution for pastoralists. Because better conditioned animals can be sold at a higher price. With this extra income pastoralists can provide for family needs. Apart from this, smaller herds have a smaller impact on rangeland, which is better for the environment and results in healthier rangeland that can be grazed upon in a more timely fashion, making use of a rotation system.