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Food and nutrition policy

The impact of agricultural and food supply policies on nutrition and health status
A society in transition: developmental and seasonal influences on the nutrition of maasai women and children
Seasonality in health and nutrition on a guatemalan coffee plantation
Nutritional and health consequences of seasonal fluctuations in household food availability
Pêche et énergie au Séngal

The impact of agricultural and food supply policies on nutrition and health status

In 1982 the United Nations University (UNU) received support from the United Nations Development Fund to support studies of the impact of agricultural and food supply policies on nutrition and health as part of a larger research project on food systems and policies co-ordinated by the International Food Policy Research Institute of Washington, D.C. To initiate the UNU project, a task force of international experts met to identify the most significant gaps in present knowledge concerning the nutrition agriculture relationship and to formulate a list of specific studies that needed to be undertaken urgently to provide the information needed on this topic. They had great difficulty in narrowing the list to 14 studies.

From a large number of proposals, 13 were selected for funding, and a conference was held at the Rockefeller Foundation Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, to discuss the final reports. Unfortunately, the available funds were not sufficient for studies on each sub-topic, and those funded are so diverse that they are not suitable for publication in a single volume. For this reason they will be published in clusters in this and succeeding issues of the Bulletin.

The first cluster, which comprises the articles by Nestel, Valverde et al., and Bidinger et al. in this issue, concerns the consequences of seasonal fluctuations on nutrition and health status. The authors describe the effects of seasonal variations among the Maasai in Kenya, on a coffee plantation in Guatemala, and in a village in Andhra Pradesh, India.

A society in transition: developmental and seasonal influences on the nutrition of Maasai women and children

Penelope Nestel
International Livestock Centre of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya


Tropical Africa covers about 23 million square kilometres and is estimated to contain some 159 million cattle, 153 million sheep, 144 million goats, 17 million equines, and 12 million camels [5]. The ecological conditions vary enormously, ranging from desert to temperate highlands and tropical rain forests. The present distribution of livestock differs markedly among ecological zones and is dependent largely upon the presence of forage and water and the absence of risk of disease. The tsetse-fly vector of trypanosomiasis effectively precludes most breeds of cattle from half of the land area; most livestock are forced to remain in the more arid zones or at the higher altitudes, a necessity that has tended to concentrate the livestock and, in many areas, has led to overgrazing.

In many parts of the continent, livestock are important in terms of income, employment, and resource utilization. Animal products are in demand, which has important implications from the standpoint of both human nutrition and trade. Given this situation, it is not surprising that many efforts have been made to develop the livestock industries of the continent. In the past, however, few efforts to increase livestock production have achieved sustained success. In the main, interventions have failed to persuade pastoralists to change their life-style, which already represents a highly integrated and skilful adaptation to long-standing social and environmental requirements.

A major reason for the failure to bring about change is that efforts to do so have usually stressed technical factors and have largely ignored social and economic considerations. Little recognition has been paid to the fact that, in most situations, the pastoralist is still a herdsman or a shepherd, rather than a rancher or farmer. To a considerable extent, he lives outside or on the fringes of a monetary economy, and he usually attaches a greater importance to the number of his stock than to their productive efficiency. For the most part, livestock provide the link between life and death; it is not surprising that a cultural tradition related to livestock-keeping has developed in a pattern closely associated with the constraints imposed by the environment.

In an effort to bring about a change in this situation, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) was established in the mid 1970s and specifically charged with trying to overcome some of the historic problems associated with livestock development by adopting a systems approach in its work. In 1979 ILCA established a programme in Kenya to study the specific pastoral production system practiced by the Maasai. This tribe was selected for two reasons. First, they had been involved in a major national effort at livestock development since its outset-the Kenya Livestock Development Plan (KLDP)- and second, for logistic reasons, it was easier to work with this group of pastoralists than with the other major groups found in Kenya.

As a tribe the Maasai are divided into 15 subtribes. Each subtribe has traditionally occupied a specific area or section of land considered to be a self-sufficient unit in that it contained both wet-season and dry-season grazing areas and permanent water supplies. Each subtribe was governed by a council of elders led by the senior member of the subtribe.

In the recently introduced KLDP, land was allocated to a "group" of families, i.e. a group ranch. Within the group ranch each family is able to retain its autonomy in terms of animal management and other activities, but grazing is communal. Each ranch is run by an elected management committee responsible for organization and management. Individual members pay for the services they receive from the group according to the number of stock they own, and they are expected to comply with all the regulations laid down by the management committee.


The purposes of the ILCA's research in Maasailand were: to identify how the Maasai manage their livestock to achieve their subsistence food requirements and production goals; to determine the causal relations within the production system; and to elucidate the constraints on livestock production and evaluate potential interventions designed to increase productivity.

To achieve these goals, a multi-disciplinary team consisting of animal scientists, economists, and anthropologists was formed, and expanded in 1982 to include a veterinarian and a human nutritionist. Three adjacent group ranches - Olkarkar, Merueshi and Mbirikani -considered to be ecologically similar but at different stages of development, were selected for study.

Since the group ranches are made up of polygamous families of different sizes, the definition of a single unit of production in such a society presented a major problem. To overcome this the ILCA [8] defined two units of production.
- The sub-household, composed primarily of a woman and her children (with their associated animals); inter alia the female head of a sub-household makes decisions on milk offtake and has certain responsibilities for her own animals.
- The household, a group of sub-households normally under the direction of an independent male head of household. This unit with its associated herds usually represents a primary production unit among the Maasai. Thus, it is the normal focus of major management decisions including the movement of herds and flocks and the sale of livestock.

The nutrition research component of the ILCA research programme, described here, focused on households. Because of the degree of autonomy of sub-households within a Maasai household vis-a-vis food availability, food preparation, food consumption, and child care, nutrition research was based on each sub-household. Maasai men, when at home, eat not only in their wives' and relatives' huts, but also in those of neighbours; in general women do not eat with men. Frequently, however, the men are away, if not for whole days, then for parts of days. Forthese reasons, obtaining routine information on men's food intake was not considered practical, especially as wives did not know what their husbands had eaten outside their own huts. Since the logistics of undertaking research on men was also extremely difficult, and as they were not, in any case, considered likely to be nutritionally disadvantaged, it was decided from the outset that only women and children would be included in this study.


Traditionally the Maasai diet was based predominantly on products produced by their own livestock, i.e. milk, meat, and blood. With the increasing pressure for land resulting from overgrazing and land alienation, the Maasai people began the transition from that of a traditional, subsistence system into that of a market economy. The establishment of the group ranching scheme, through which the Maasai borrow money that they have to repay to the government with the revenue from livestock sales, has also hastened this change. This transition from a pastoralist to an entrepreneurial economy appears to have resulted in changes in the dietary patterns of the Maasai people, in that purchased foods, particularly maize, are becoming an increasingly important component of their diet.

Based on the above, and after familiarization with the ILCA Kenya programme, the work related to human nutrition was defined as identifying the causal relationships between the seasonal availability of subsistence food, purchased food, food intake, and the nutritional status of Maasai on group ranches at different stages of development.


The three selected group ranches, shown in figure 1, are located in the South-east Kajiado District between longitudes 37°30' and 37°50'E and latitudes 2°10' and 2°40'S; covering some 1,600 km², they are situated between Mount Kilimanjaro to the south and the Mombasa-Nairobi road to the north. Some 3,500 pastoralists, dependent on 50,000 cattle and 28,000 smallstock, live here [9]. Mbirikani, covering 1,350 km², is the largest group ranch in Kenya, but although it supports more people and livestock than the other two ranches (table 1), more livestock are needed per person to meet the subsistence requirement because the area is more arid and its people have very conservative views on livestock management. Such traditional practices will be discussed in the "Modernization" section of this article.

The area is serviced by both all-weather roads and dry weather roads. In each group ranch there are a dispensary, a primary school, and a small trading centre. The nearest market towns are Emali on the Nairobi-Mombasa road and Loitokitok at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.

TABLE 1. Land, people and livestock in Olkarkar, Merueshi and Mbirikani group ranches

Ranch Olkarkar Merueshi Mbirikani
Size (km²) 102 183 1,350
Number of households, 40 36 206
People 400 414 2,700
Cattle 3,950 4,350 41,500
Smallstock 3,950 4,550 19,500
Hectares of land per person 25 44 50
Hectares of land per TLUa 3 5 4
TLU per person 8 9 12

a. TLU = total livestock units
1 TLU = 250 kg.
Source: ILCA 181

Fresh water is freely available from the pipeline that runs from Loitokitok to Sultan-Hamud on the Nairobi-Mombasa road, with an extension for a further stretch. Alternatively, there are a number of boreholes throughout the area, as well as shallow wells in the Kiboko river in Merueshi and, during the rainy season, man-made ponds that collect water shared by both the livestock and people. The location of water sources greatly influences where people live.

Rain fall

Rainfall is bimodal with peaks in November to December (short rains) and April to June (long rains). There is a long dry season from July to October and a short dry season from January to March. The spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall is highly variable, and there is an aridity gradient north to south through Olkarkar and Merueshi to Mbirikani. The northern ranches have a mean annual total rainfall of 750 mm, whereas the southern ranch has a mean value of 450 mm per annum [8].

Social organization

Maasai social organization is based on an age-set system; each age-set or generation has its own name and covers some 15 years. The age-sets represent a series of life stages, initiated by ceremonies and ranked by specific duties and status. As each age-set advances up the hierarchy, a successive group takes its place. Only men belong to age sets; women are associated with the age-set for which they "sang" and into which they ultimately married. There are three stages in the age-set system; childhood, warriorhood, and elderhood. Children have neither rights nor status in the society; their main input is as labour. Circumcision (between the ages of 14 and 18 years) symbolizes adulthood. Boys become warriors and girls, on graduating to womanhood, are soon married. The purpose of warriorhood is to bring about solidarity amongst the age group. On becoming elders the traditional role of men changes from that of society's protectors to that of producers, both as pastoralists and as husbands.

Research methods

Sampling Unit

The major unit of production, which influences the nutritional status of an individual Maasai, is the household. Within a household a number of cows are allocated to each woman, and she depends on them for milk to feed herself and her children. When a household purchases food, it is distributed equally among the sub-households regardless of their size. In order to assess the nutritional status of households, data have to be obtained from each independent sub-household within that household.

Maasai families are often extended rather than nuclear. In part, because of the large variations in household size, ILCA selected the unit "average adult male equivalent" (AAME) a! the criterion for comparing households. The AAME represented the average daily energy requirement of an average African adult male, or 2,530 kcal, and was based on the nutrient and energy intake recommended for populations in Africa by the Food and Agriculture Organization [4]. Thus, the food energy requirements for an adult male were taken as 1 AAME, and the requirements of members of other population classes, based on data of body weights for other pastoral populations, were expressed as: 0 to 5 years old = 0.52 AAME; 6 to 10 years old = 0.85 AAME; 11 to 15 years old = 0.96 AAME; and adult female = 0.86 AAME [8].

The total AAMEs of any household were then determined by reference to the size of a household as well as its age and sex structure.

Sample selection

In order to assess how many households should be included in this study, account was taken of the fact that in Maasailand, as in other pastoral areas, subsistence food production and consumption are seasonal and highly dependent on rainfall. The volume and distribution of rain

largely determine both the quantity and the quality of grazing, which, in turn, directly influence milk production. Unless there is an exceptionally good wet season, the ecological impact of the expected rainfall vis-á-vis the availability of good grass for grazing diminishes rapidly after about two months. It was therefore decided that, in order to emphasize the seasonal nature of subsistence food production and consumption, households would be visited every two months. For logistical reasons, only one house hold could be visited each day, that is, 20 households per month. Discussions with ILCA staff indicated that, in terms of access to food, whether home-produced or purchased, little difference would be observed between the Olkarkar and Merueshi group ranches. It was therefore decided to treat these two ranches as a single entity and to visit the Olkarkar/Merueshi and Mbirikani sample households on alternate months. Thus, the size of the sample for the nutrition study was 2 x 20 or 40 households.

These households were randomly selected from the ILCArandom sample of 90 households. Prior to choosing the sample, however, certain households in the ILCA sample were excluded if they (a) had a household head with no children (9 households); (b)were not in the study area or could not be contacted at the onset of the nutrition study (7 households); (c) were not willing to participate (15 households).

TABLE 2. Mean size and composition of households and sub-households in Olkarkar/Merueshi (Olk/Mer) and Mbirikani (Mbk) Group ranches (based on the nutrition study household inventory)

Household members Size of sample Average household Average sub-household
Olk/Mer Mbk Olk/Mer Mbk Olk/Mer Mbk
Offspringb 157 155 7.8 7.8 2.4 2.5
Dependents 41 35 2.0 1.8 0.6 0.6
Total 198 190 9.8 9.6 3.0 3.1
Men 30 21 1.5 1.0 0.4 0.3
Wives 39 44 2.0 2.2 1.0 1.0
Extended family 27 17 1.3 0.8 0.0 0.0
Dependents 12 1 0.6 0.0 0.4 0.0
Total 108 83 5.4 4.0 1.8 1.3
Total present 306 273 15.2 13.6 4.8 4.4
  1. Excludes the 11 babies born in each area during the study period.
  2. Excludes children permanently living away, e.g. married, employed outside the area.
  3. Adults who may or may not be related to the household head and who have not built their own hut.

The 40 households in the study contained a total of 66 sub-households in Olkarkar/Merueshi and 61 sub households in Mbirikani. These sub-households comprised 579 people with an average household size of 15.2 in Olkarkar/Merueshi and 13.6 in Mbirikani. At the sub household level, sizes were between 4 and 5 people in both ranch areas (table 2).

Survey methods

Details of the methods used in the full study are given in Nestel [13]. The study was longitudinal, covering two years. From July 1982 to June 1983, all 127 sub households were visited every two months. At each visit, standard measurements and records were made for all available women and children. These included height and weight measurements, and a detailed 24-hour dietary recall quantified according to each woman's measures and methods of preparation.

Validation of the recall methods was tested during a three day weighed intake study on a sub-sample from 1983 to 1984. The results of these two methods of dietary assessment were in close correspondence largely because of the simplicity of the diet [13].

Data on the number of lactating cows and frequency of meat consumption over the last two months were also collected. The data on meat availability was cross-checked, where necessary, after comparing the independent answers from different women within the same household.

Samples of the principal foods consumed by the Maasai for the dry and wet seasons (milk, maize, kidney bean, cow pea, and various fats) were also collected from the study site for analysis.

In addition to the above, the ILCA concurrently collected monthly recall data on household income and expenditure as well as other parameters. These data for the 40 households in the nutrition study were used to generate the data presented here on food expenditure. The amount of meat available for consumption was estimated using data the ILCA collected monthly on the number and species of animals slaughtered multiplied by the mean weight of edible meat obtained from animals slaughtered locally. The ILCA also recorded daily milk off take for all lactating cows, which gave the mean daily quantity of milk available for human consumption.

From September 1983 to March 1984, six households purposely selected (16 sub households) co-operated in a three-day weighed-and-measured-intake and activity study covering both a wet and a dry season: all people, excluding breast-fed children in the sub-household at the time, were included. Diary cards, from which energy expenditure was later calculated, recorded at five-minute intervals the physical activity (such as walking) and task (such as herding) of each individual from dawn until after the evening meal.

Throughout the two years, social nutrition data were collected through questionnaires, observations, and discussions. The data included food habits and taboos, hygiene, pregnancy, lactation and weaning practices, and nutrition knowledge.

Data analysis

The nutrient and energy concentration of Maasai foods were determined largely from the food analysis carried out in this study: moisture (drying to constant weight), protein [1], fat [3], energy [11], ash (high-temperature drying), and carbohydrate (by difference).

The nutrient and energy content of foods not analysed in this study were obtained from the FAO Food Composition Tables for Africa [4]. Alternatively, Platt's Tables of Representative Values of Foods Commonly Used in Tropical Countries [15] were used for foods not in the FAO tables.

The nutritional status of the population presented here has been analysed by group ranch area. The reference standards for sex-specific weights and heights used in this study are the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) as recommended by WHO [16] and the Foggarty Standards of weight for height for adults [2].

The t-test was used to determine the significance of differences in the level of undernutrition between the group ranches, and standard analyses of variance were used to test for significant seasonal variations in the level of undernutrition.

Subsistence food production and use

Until the end of the last century the Maasai diet was based on milk, meat, and blood. Since then, however, it has been continuously changing, most noticeably during the last twenty years as a number of development efforts have encouraged the Maasai to enter the cash economy through the sale of animals, which has inevitably affected their food habits. Some of the factors that have led to this are:

Today, the staple diet of the Maasai consists of cow's milk and maizemeal. The former is largely drunk fresh or in sweet tea and the latter is used to make a liquid or solid porridge. The solid porridge is known as uoali and is eaten with milk; unlike the liquid porridge, uoali is not prepared with milk. Meat, although an important food, is consumed irregularly and cannot be classified as a staple food. Animal fats or butter are used in cooking, primarily of porridge, maize, and beans. Butter is also an important infant food. Blood is rarely drunk.

The remainder of this article will discuss, first, the seasonal components in the production of subsistence food, namely milk and meat. The availability and influence of these foods on expenditure patterns will then be analysed. This analysis will be followed by a discussion on food intake, including the food source of energy, the nutrient source of energy, the adequacy of the energy intake, and the nutritional status of women and children.

Milk off take and availability

Mean daily milk off take (as opposed to total production) throughout the entire period from July 1982 to June 1983 was 0.9 litres per cow in Olkarkar/Merueshi and 0.6 litres per cow in Mbirikani. The coefficients of variation were 38 per cent and 42 per cent respectively. These high coefficients of variation were influenced by each cow's month of lactation, lactation number, watering frequency, and season of the year. These coefficients of variation indicate the care with which data for "average" lactation yield should be interpreted.

Milk offtake per cow per day (1/cow/day) in relation to the relative availability of green herbage in Olkarkar/Merueshi and Mbirikani group ranches, July 1982 to June 1983

The seasonal variation in milk offtake for domestic use in relation to the relative availability of green herbage [8] in the two areas is shown in figure 2. The results primarily reflect the different ecological conditions in the group ranches. Milk offtake was higher in Olkarkar/Merueshi because of higher and better distribution of rainfall, better soils and vegetation (resulting in more palatable grasses), a higher proportion of grazeable areas (fewer hills and stony areas), and a more even distribution of watering facilities.

The total amount of milk available for human consumption in different months in both ranch areas is shown in figure 3. In view of the fact that household sizes vary, results are presented as litres per average adult male equivalent (AAME). For the year July 1982 to June 1983 the total milk available for human consumption was 960 litres per AAME in Olkarkar/Merueshi and 430 litres per AAME in Mbirikani. The difference is interesting in view of the fact that households in Olkarkar/Merueshi owned fewer cattle than those in Mbirikani [10]. Very clearly rainfall and grazing conditions had a greater influence on milk production than did herd size.

Milk availability per adult equivalent per day (1/AAME/day) in Olkarkar/Merueshi and Mbirikani group ranches, July 1982 to June 1983

The preferred form of milk use was as whole milk, either consumed directly or in the cooking of tea or porridge.

TABLE 3. Composition of zebu milk

Composition Dry season
(Sept.-Oct. 1983)
x ± standard error
Wet season
Standard error
Butterfat (g/100 g)a 6.0±0.2 4.4±0.4
Solids, non-fat (g/100g) 7.9±0.2 7.7±0.3
Energy (kcal/100g)c 77.0±2.0 59.0±3.0
  1. P<.001.
  2. Not significant.
  3. P<.001.

The making of butter took precedence over that of sour milk; butter was made as regularly as possible, whereas sour milk was made only when milk was in relatively plentiful supply.

The Maasai grade milk as either rich (thick) or light (watery). They believe that season, rather than stage of lactation, determines milk quality. This grading corresponds with the fat content of the milk, which as table 3 shows was particularly high. Dry-season milk had 6 per cent fat, which was significantly higher than the 4.4 per cent fat level in wet-season milk. As expected, there was no seasonal difference in the levels of non-fat solids. Wet-season milk had an energy value of 59 kcal/100 9, while dry-season milk had 77 kcal/100 9.

These data, along with those on milk offtake, have shown that there is not only, as expected, an inverse relationship between the volume of milk produced and its nutrient content, but there are also important seasonal differences in these parameters that should not be overlooked when discussing the nutritional implications of milk availability.

Before going on to discuss the availability of meat for consumption, it is important to note that the Maasai do not consume meat and milk at the same meal. The reason for this is that they do not consider it good to have both dead (meat) and live (milk) animal products in the same place, they want a long and productive life both for themselves and their animals. If people became accustomed to eating meat every day, they would slaughter regularly, which would exhaust the products of their herds and flocks, i.e. milk and meat.

Meat availability

The contribution and significance of the different animal species in providing meat to the Maasai diet depends on social and economic factors. Cattle are rarely slaughtered for non-ceremonial purposes; the Maasai do not regard such an act to be economically sound. Cattle, notably steers, are slaughtered for major ceremonies.

Sheep and goats are slaughtered for both ceremonial and non-ceremonial purposes. Both animal species are important as sources of cash, in that they can be readily sold to pay. school fees or to buy food. They are also important as gifts. The use of smallstock for human consumption differs among species: sheep are kept primarily for their fat and goats for their meat.

The type of smallstock slaughtered follows the same pattern as for cattle, in that productive males and females are not slaughtered, and castrates are specifically slaughtered for minor ceremonies.

Animals are voluntarily slaughtered for a ceremony, for a sick person or, rarely, for meat, by suffocation or hanging, so that the blood can be collected. Animals afflicted by disease or seriously injured are sometimes slaughtered rather than waiting for them to die. This is known as forced slaughter and is used, for example, for a cow suffering from anthrax or malignant catarrh. Such action prevents the spread of the disease and further losses of edible meat. Meat from diseased animals is used for human consumption. Indeed, much of the meat eaten by the Maasai is from such animals.

Men invariably do the slaughtering in the bush, away from the homestead out of the women's sight. This is so that the warriors, who are not allowed to eat food seen by circumcised women, may partake. Meat for women and children is sent to the homestead, either raw or cooked on the fire where the slaughtering takes place. The only slaughtering that women participate in is that of casualty animals that men consider to have little or no edible meat on them. Women are, therefore, virtually isolated from the meat production system, which is totally a male prerogative.

Meat, but not offal, is preserved, but only for the use of women who have recently given birth and for children recently circumcised. The taboos against preserving meat are the same as those for eating meat and drinking milk at the same time. Meat for preservation is first boiled, then put in a container and hot fat poured over it so that it is airtight. The practices of salting, sun drying, or smoking as methods of preserving meat are unknown to the Maasai.

The average amount of edible meat on cattle carcasses surveyed was 123 kg, while that for sheep and goats was 29 kg and 26 kg respectively. Using these values, in conjunction with those for the number of animals slaughtered, it was possible to estimate the amount of meat available for consumption. The Maasai do not eat calves, kids, or lambs, hence only adult animals were considered in the analysis. These data, however, can lead to overestimates of the amount of meat available for consumption, for two reasons: first, sick animals were frequently in poor condition and below these weights, and, second, all the meat available from forced slaughter was not always edible. Thus, the data presented should be interpreted as meat potentially available for consumption.

Unlike other pastoral tribes, who hold their ceremonies in the dry season so that food is made available when milk production is low (Dyson-Hudson, personal communication), the Maasai hold their ceremonies from the middle of either wet season onwards for one to two months. This timing is appropriate because (a) water for cooking is more readily available during the rains, (b) the condition of the animals improves at this time, allowing for a better selection of a good animal to slaughter, and (c) there is more milk available during the wet season, which facilitates the making of the tea required during the ceremonies. More recently the Maasai have tended to concentrate their ceremonies around the short rains, which coincide with the Christmas school holidays, so that the schoolchildren can participate.

The incidence of animal disease, which results in forced slaughter, is also related to season, since the rains provide conditions conducive to the growth not only of livestock but also of the vectors of their diseases. The rains are particularly good for the growth of ticks and tick-borne diseases, to which weak animals or those with a low resistance are the first to succumb. As the dry season progresses, other animals are affected.

The amount of meat potentially available per day per adult equivalent over the year of study is shown in figure 4. A total of 28 kg per AAME per year was potentially available in Olkarkar/Merueshi and 130 kg per AAME per year in Mbirikani.

In Olkarkar and Merueshi, there was a gradual decline in the meat potentially available for consumption through the long dry season to the short rainy season of 1982. Meat availability rose to a peak in February, reflecting the ceremony season, after which it fell before rising again in May 1983. This second peak was the result of an outbreak of Nairobi Sheep Disease (NSD), which killed off many smallstock.

The higher incidence of animal disease in Mbirikani during the study period explains the much greater quantity of meat potentially available for consumption in that area. The long rains of 1982 were poor, and by May of that year a number of households were forced to move in search of grazing further south, to an area adjoining swamps where East Coast Fever (ECF), a tick-born disease, was endemic. This area had no dipping facilities, and, as a result, a large number of cattle died in the middle months of the year. Only a few households moved to this area, so that the high value for meat availability is more apparent than real for most of the people in Mbirikani.

With the advent of the short rains in 1982, the people moved back to their permanent residences in Mbirikani along the pipeline road. Their animals, however, came back harbouring the tick vectors of both ECF and NSD. Subsequent dipping of the cattle ensured the ECF was kept under control, but smallstock were not dipped and spraying was irregular. As a result, NSD manifested itself in smallstock, leading to a relatively high level of forced slaughter. By April 1983, NSD had spread to the smallstock in Olkarkar and Merueshi and, as in Mbirikani, the level of forced slaughter rose.

Daily meat potentially available for human consumption (kg/AAME/day) from voluntary and forced slaughter in Olkarkar/Merueshi and Mbirikani group ranches, July 1982 to June 1983 (a)

Daily meat potentially available for human consumption (kg/AAME/day) from voluntary and forced slaughter in Olkarkar/Merueshi and Mbirikani group ranches, July 1982 to June 1983 (b)

In Mbirikani, the Maasai held a very important ceremony during August 1982, which delayed other related ceremonies. The August ceremony accounted for the greater quantity of meat potentially available in Mbirikani from voluntary slaughter throughout the long dry season of 1982, compared to the amount of meat potentially available in Olkarkar and Merueshi.

Between July 1982 and June 1983, the women indicated that they ate meat only about twice a month (table 4). The women, therefore, did not appear to benefit from the high level of forced slaughter in the dry season, especially in Mbirikani. Indeed, from the food consumption data for women and children, the annual consumption of meat in Olkarkar/Merueshi was only 19 kg per AAME and 44 kg per AAME in Mbirikani. The women and children's meat consumption was so low because they did not have the same access to forced slaughter meat as the warriors and men who went with the main herd or flock. During the dry season, when grazing was sparse, the herds and flocks were separated into two or three groups, each based in separate residences some distance apart. The women and younger children were usually left with the milch cows.


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