We continued our cultural lesson this morning with a lecture by Steven Ndosi about the different Tanzanian tribes. Steven explained that Tanzania has over 120 different tribal groups, each with their own language and cultural practices. President Nyerere (the first president) worked to unify the people by emphasizing national pride and discouraging tribalism. This unification was achieved through the establishment of Kiswahili as the national language and the recognition of each tribe as equal.
Gerson Mollel, a Massai tribe member and wildlife conservationist, shared with us the customary practices of the Massai tribe as well as his opinion about national parks and other conservation areas. He discussed how the Massai are no longer able to practice transhumance pastoralism because there has been a loss of land to private farms and hunting blocks. The establishment of wildlife management areas (WMA) by the African Wildlife Foundation has created support for the Massai. The WMA's are protected areas outside of the national parks where the Massai live. Because the Massai live in connection with the wildlife, this area is a great tourist attraction for viewing animals. 65% of the revenue from the WMA goes to the tribe, unlike the national parks where 100% goes to the government. Gerson provided us with great background information about the Massai that will be helpful during our time in the bush.
After lunch, we visited a small coffee farm up on Mount Meru. We learned about the growing season of coffee beans and how a single tree can be harvested three times within the same season. After touring the field, we watched how they shucked the shell from the bean by pounding it in a giant wooden mortar. After the beans were peeled they were roasted in a metal pan over a small fire and then ground them by hand in the mortar. We then brewed some of the coffee we had prepared and enjoyed a cup. It was some of the best coffee I have ever had!
Today was our last day at the Vijiji Center for we will be heading out to Monduli town tomorrow and then into the bush. This will be the last post until the last few days of our trip for we will be without Internet.