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Freiburger Geographische Hefte, Vol. 72

Emanuel Munishi (2013): Rural-urban Migration and Resilience of the Maasai Nomadic Pastoralist Youth in Tanzania: Case studies in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region and Dar es Salaam City


Rural-urban migration is increasingly becoming an important livelihood strategy in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Tanzania, and is in many ways viewed as a driving force behind the rapid urbanisation process within this region. Despite urbanisation being associated with benefits such as trade stimulation and the subsequent increase in governments’ revenue, it is also accompanied by threats such as higher commodity prices, unemployment, alarming crime rates, inadequate shelter and governments’ unpreparedness to combat them.

Maasai nomadic pastoralist youth, who started migrating to urban areas on a large scale from the 1990s onwards, are disadvantaged in many ways owing to their cultural, social, economic and political marginalisation since colonial times. In this context, important yet controversial questions include: What migration-related threats are likely experienced by the Maasai migrant youth and local households? How do they cope with these threats; indeed, do they manage to cope? How can migrants and households’ capacities be strengthened to more competently cope with such threats?

To tackle the above-posed questions, this study explored the influences of the rural-urban migration of Maasai nomadic pastoralist youth on the resilience of both the migrants in Dar es Salaam and local households in Ngorongoro District, Northern Tanzania. It specifically documented factors for and patterns of the rural-urban migration of the Maasai nomadic pastoralist youth, investigating the impact of rural-urban migration on the local households’ resilience and analysing migration-related threats encountered by the migrants in urban areas, as well as their coping strategies. Finally, this thesis suggests factors for enhancing migrants and households’ resilience against migration-related threats.

A myriad of migration theories was employed to understand factors behind migration patterns, while the multi-layered social resilience framework of (Obrist et al. 2010) was deemed suitable to explore migration-related threats for migrants and households, as well as their strategies of coping with them. A qualitative approach was adopted, although data was both qualitatively and quantitatively analysed. Respondents were both randomly and purposely selected and in-depth interviews were conducted with 50 Maasai migrants, 30 households and 30 key informants, including private and public institutional officials and community members at various levels in Dar es Salaam and Ngorongoro. In addition, five focus group discussions (FGDs), observations and the review of secondary data were also carried out.

The study revealed that Maasai migrant youth have been migrating to Dar es Salaam city mainly due to different reasons, like household poverty emanating from the decline of pastoralism and agriculture, insufficient access to land, livestock diseases, unemployment and resource conflicts, partly triggered by climatic fluctuations. Rural-urban migration was catalysed by inconsistent land and development policies, social networks, migrants and households’ aspirations and technology, notably improved communication and transportation networks such as mobile phones and road networks.

Migration both positively and negatively influenced the households’ resilience. For instance, remittances from migrants enhanced households’ economic capital (notably livestock and agriculture), cultural capital such as food and health support, various household equipment and the improvement of formal education and skills. On the other hand, migration also subjected some households to threats related to financial constrains, inadequate human power and food insecurity. Household members coped with such threats by depending on informal affiliations (social capital), taking on extra work load, child labour and engaging in entrepreneurship activities (cultural capital), mainly at individual, household and community levels. However, they could rarely solicit support from meso, national and international levels.

Threats experienced by the Maasai migrants in Dar es Salaam chiefly concerned inadequate income and shelter, unemployment, oppression and exploitation, notably low and delayed labour returns and arbitrary job terminations, stigma and segregation, together with physical insecurity, notably falling victim to crime when working as security guards, typically due to a lack of proper equipment and security training.

On the one hand, migrants managed to solicit and utilise capitals from different social layers, thus developing ‘reactive’ and to a lesser extent ‘proactive’ capacities to competently cope with the aforementioned migration-related threats.
Specifically, migrants competently coped with the threats by utilising cultural capital at the individual level, such as migrants’ local knowledge and physical strength. They employed social capital at community and household levels, particularly rural-urban linkages and strong social networks among migrants, which enabled the sharing of resources such as food, finance shelter and working in groups to cope with the insecurity threat. To a lesser degree, migrants also employed aspects of economic capital such as livestock and agricultural products at the household level, as well as symbolic capital such as the Maasai social reputation and identity springing from Maasai culture and local traditions.
However, both the Maasai migrants and household members lacked formal skills and education, as well as structures that could support resilience building at meso, regional and national levels. Thus, equipping Maasai migrants and households with formal skills, the changing of land tenure policies and making government and private institutions more responsive to the migration threats affecting Maasai can significantly improve both the Maasai migrants and local households’ resilience against such threats.