Date of Award

Spring 2001

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert T Eckert


This dissertation examines the sustainability of the use of oxen by the Maasai and Arusha (WaArusha) people, in Monduli District, Tanzania. Traditionally pastoralists, the Maasai are undergoing a social and agricultural transformation process of sedentarization in this region. The villages included in the case study were Arkatan, Engaruka, Esilalei, Lashaine, Lendikenya, Lolkisale, Losirwa, Mbuyuni, Mswakini, and Selela. Using semi-structured interviews the heads of 130 Maasai homesteads (bomas), as well as, other informants were interviewed. The history, issues of technology transfer and future prospects of animal traction were examined, as well as, the obstacles and constraints facing the Maasai in their adoption of this technology. This case study also documents and compares the agricultural development and cropping strategies of the Maasai and WaArusha people related to the adoption and sustainable use of animal traction.

The adoption of oxen and other forms of agricultural power, including tractors, by the Maasai has transformed their view of land tenure, their access to common grazing areas, and their ability to share grazing resources with wildlife. Adopting well-known agricultural development strategies, the Maasai have also tried to maintain their livestock keeping and pastoral culture. Monduli District, located in Northern Tanzania, is adjacent to many wildlife areas and National Parks, including Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Nearby Maasai grazing areas have been considered important wildlife corridors. The proximity to these wildlife areas has created a situation where large numbers of wildlife frequently pass through and raid crop fields. The Maasai and WaArusha people face a shrinking land base, reducing their ability to survive by pastoralism alone. Crop growing has become an important part of their economic survival.

The landscape in the research area has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. This land use change, particularly in highland areas, has created environmental problems, such as overgrazing, soil erosion, as well as, decreased vegetative cover leading to lower soil moisture levels. The result has been decreased crop yields in many areas, with increased social and wildlife conflicts, as well as, rampant environmental problems.