Knowledge Loss and Change Between 2002 and 2017—a Revisit of Plant Use of the Maasai of Sekenani Valley, Maasai Mara, Kenya

  • Rainer W. Bussmann
  • Narel Y. Paniagua-Zambrana
  • Nick Wood
  • Sankairi Ole Njapit
  • James Nkiingis Ole Njapit
  • Grace Sorimpan Ene Osoi
  • Simon Pariken Kasoe


Traditional plant use is of tremendous importance in many societies, including most rural African communities. A variety of studies have shown knowledge dwindling due to changes towards a more Western lifestyle, and the influence of modern tourism. In the case of the Sekenani Maasai, we hypothesized in 2006 that, while little knowledge loss had been observed at that time, the change from a nomadic to a more sedentary lifestyle would lead to an accelerating loss of traditional plant knowledge. This paper examines the plant use of the Maasai in the Sekenani Valley, North of the Maasai Mara National Reserve 15 years after a first study. Based on the study of 2002 (Bussmann et al. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2: 22, 2006), semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff of Sekenani Camp in order to document current plant knowledge. The results of this follow-up study indicate dramatic knowledge loss over the last 15 years. Of 139 used species documented in 2002, only 84 remained in use in 2017. Off those species still in use, 30 had experienced a loss of uses, while for 18 species new uses were documented. The knowledge loss observed in Sekenani in 15 years is rather dramatic. Lifestyle changes and over-use of resources have clearly led to a rapid decline of traditional knowledge on plant use. This trend is expected to continue.

Key Words

Traditional knowledge Maasai Utilization Conservation Plants 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the participation of the Sekenani Valley residents, and they also wish to thank the staff of Sekenani Camp for their hospitality and support.

Authors’ Contributions

All authors share the contributions to the fieldwork of this manuscript. RWB and NYPZ analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Funding Information

This study was funded by endowment funds of the William L. Brown Center at Missouri Botanical Garden, for which we are grateful.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

Consent for Publication

This manuscript does not contain any individual person’s and further consent for publication is not required.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

Before conducting interviews, individual prior informed consent was obtained from all participants. No further ethics approval was required. All work conducted was carried out under the stipulations of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The right to use and authorship of any traditional knowledge of all participants is maintained, and any use of this information, other than for scientific publication, does require additional prior consent of the traditional owners, as well as a consensus on access to benefits resulting from subsequent use.

Supplementary material

12231_2018_9411_MOESM1_ESM.docx (78 kb)
Appendix 1 Electronic Supplementary Material. Plants and their uses in Sekenani 2002 and 2017 (DOCX 78 kb)

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rainer W. Bussmann
    • 1
  • Narel Y. Paniagua-Zambrana
    • 2
  • Nick Wood
    • 3
  • Sankairi Ole Njapit
    • 3
  • James Nkiingis Ole Njapit
    • 3
  • Grace Sorimpan Ene Osoi
    • 3
  • Simon Pariken Kasoe
    • 3
  1. 1.Saving KnowledgeLa PazBolivia
  2. 2.Herbario Nacional de BoliviaLa PazBolivia
  3. 3.Sekenani CampNairobiKenya

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