Farming, The Cattle & The Water
The Maasai keep zebu as their primary cattle. They also farm cows, sheep and goats, and occasionally chickens. Because of the wet and dry seasons, as opposed to summer and winter, men often have to graze their herds far from their settlements to find water and vegetation.
The cattle eat from the sparse vegetation in the area, whilst the people eat rice, dairy products, beans and ugali- a maize-based product. The Maasai do not eat their animals except on special occasions, they only trade them for crops, as they do not grow crops themselves. However, the Maasai drink the blood of their animals to get important nutrients for their bodies, although they are careful not to kill the cattle, as their wealth is measured in the number of animals they keep.
People and the cattle get their water from the same sources - waterholes, wells and other natural sources such as rivers although do not drink from the ‘soda lakes’ which are polluted by volcanic ash.
To find enough vegetation, and in order to profit from the relief rain in the high mountain ranges of Kenya, the Maasai move their cattle to higher terrain - mostly above 2000 metres - throughout the dry season. In the wet season, they then return to sub 2000 metres, as there is enough water to go around. They also have to move around a lot, as it takes the vegetation longer to recover with the dry, hot climate.