Settlement patterns and their potential implications for livelihoods among Maasai pastoralists in northern Tanzania


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Virginia Tech


In the last century, many mobile pastoralists have transitioned to more sedentary lifestyles. Mobile people can be both pushed into a more settled existence by environmental or political forces, or pulled by new economic opportunities. While researchers have examined the causes and consequences of growing sedentarization, few contemporary studies have examined the patterns of settlement among mobile groups who are shifting to sedentary lifestyles and how these patterns may be related to socio-economic outcomes. This research examines settlement site selection by using GIS and remote sensing techniques to quantify settlement patterns in four Maasai villages in northern Tanzania, exploring the environmental and infrastructure correlates of settlement locations. A subset of these geographic variables is used with social survey data for 111 Maasai households in the study site to test the hypothesis that settlement location impacts livelihood strategies and economic outcomes by creating and constraining access to important resources and infrastructure. Landscape level evaluation of settlement pat-terns show that certain soil types limit occupation and the potential for agricultural expansion in 30% of the study area. Settlement density and existing agriculture are also clustered in certain parts of the landscape. The spatial models support the hypothesis that proximity to roads and village centers plays an important role in shaping overall settlement patterns. However, models that combine these factors with environmental and geophysical elements show improved explanatory performance, suggesting that competing factors are at play in influencing settlement patterns. Spatial models also indicate that agricultural development may be limiting land available for settlement in some parts of the study area. Results of the household level outcomes are more ambiguous, with few relationships between geographic variables and household livestock holdings, land under cultivation, annual income. Rather, these factors are influenced largely by demographic variables such as household size, age of the household head, and asset allocation. However, there appears to be less income diversity in households more distant from permanent water sources.



Tanzania, Maasai, pastoralism, settlement, livelihood diversification