Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 321–334

Adopting Cultivation to Remain Pastoralists: The Diversification of Maasai Livelihoods in Northern Tanzania

  • J. Terrence McCabe
  • Paul W. Leslie
  • Laura DeLuca

DOI: 10.1007/s10745-010-9312-8

Cite this article as:
McCabe, J.T., Leslie, P.W. & DeLuca, L. Hum Ecol (2010) 38: 321. doi:10.1007/s10745-010-9312-8


Over the past four decades, Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania have adopted agriculture, integrating it with their traditional pastoralism. This livelihood diversification has complex origins and profound implications for Maasai social organization, culture, and demography, and ultimately for their health and well being and for the local and regional environment. In this paper, we examine the process by which this engagement with, and increasing dependence upon, agriculture came about in Ngorongoro District, northern Tanzania. The process there was more complex and influenced by a wider variety of factors than has been reported by previous descriptions of Maasai livelihood diversification. It generally involved two stages: planting a garden first, and later expanding the garden to a farm. We found that some households adopted cultivation out of necessity, but far more did so by choice. Among the latter, some adopted cultivation to reduce risk, while for others it was a reflection of changing cultural and social norms. Motivations for adopting cultivation differed among people of different wealth categories. Diversification was part of wider cultural changes, and was also influenced by power differentials among Maasai age sets and by government policies.


Pastoralists Maasai Tanzania Livelihood diversification 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Terrence McCabe
    • 1
  • Paul W. Leslie
    • 2
  • Laura DeLuca
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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