By Jim Bliesner
Editors note: Jim Bliesner spent the last month traveling through Africa. This post from the road is about a trip from Nairobi to the Lale’enok research camp near the Tanzania border.
You drive for four hours, south out of Nairobi on a two lane rutted road that spirals down into the South Rift Valley. By the time you reach the bottom of the winding decline and into the Valley floor the “city” has receded into the background and plains stretch into the clouds in all directions.
Black sprinkles of cattle tended by figures robed in bright reds and blues break the landscape. Periodically the car stops while cattle are walked across the road to greener pastures. Now and then a speed bump slows the journey and we are introduced to local vendors selling vegetables, fruits, bright colored candies, tourist trinkets, mementoes of the culture and geography.
We arrive at Olorgesaile the sight of a regional meeting of Maasai landowners assembled to discuss their collective future at the First Annual Maasai Cultural Heritage Festival. The Maasai tribe dominates the geography in the South Rift Valley and is organized into the South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO) headed by John Kamanga. The movement percolated through the African Conservation Center, a Kenyan national non-profit dedicated to “saving African biodiversity through sound science, local initiative and good governance”.