Despite being primarily associated with Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai’s historical geographic distribution expanded across a much larger territory. The Maasai have roots that trace back to South Sudan. According to Maasai oral history, the Maasai originated in the lower Nile valley to the north of Lake Turkana, located in northwestern Kenya. In the 15th century, they began to migrate further south and ended up in a long stretch of land that spanned from present-day northern Kenya to central Tanzania between the 17th and 18th centuries. By the mid-19th century, Maasai territory expanded to include almost all of the Great Rift Valley and the surrounding areas. 

Colonization by the British from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century significantly reduced the Maasai’s territory. The British forcibly evicted the Maasai to make room for settler ranches, which confined them to smaller areas near the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Additionally, the colonial powers removed the Maasai from their ancestral lands to create national parks, including Serengeti National Park and Nairobi National Park. The reserves at Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro, and Lake Manyara also resulted in Maasai land loss.

Today, the Maasai inhabit southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, especially near the Tanzania-Kenya border. While the numbers can vary, there are between 1 – 2 million Maasai living across Tanzania and Kenya. The Maasai currently occupy roughly 160,000 square kilometers of land and have continued to experience displacement from the creation of national parks and wildlife reserves even after Kenya and Tanzania’s independence. Tarangire National Park and Amboseli National Park are two examples of post-colonial national parks that contributed to Maasai land dispossession and threatened their pastoral way of life. 

At Adumu Impact Fund, our goal is to return land back to the Maasai people and encourage their traditional ways of sustainable coexistence with wildlife. To learn more about our initiatives or contribute to land restoration efforts, visit the “projects” and “get involved” tabs at the top of this page!