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McCabe, J. Terrence; Leslie, Paul W.; & DeLuca, Laura (2010). Adopting Cultivation to Remain Pastoralists: The Diversification of Maasai Livelihoods in Northern Tanzania. Human Ecology, 38(3), 321-334. PMCID: PMC3170717


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.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Human Ecology


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