Yohana Lojumbutwa has been living in his boma for eighteen years. He used to protect his seventy head of cattle with the dry, feeble thorn bushes used by the majority of Maasai pastoralists. But recently, he installed the last component of his new Living Wall.
APW designed its Living Walls to protect big cats, people and livestock while preserving the environment. Since our first installation in 2008, they have done just that.
Cloaked in his bright blue shuka, Yohana greets us warmly at his boma with his sons and nephews. Around the cattle corral, newly planted Commiphora africana poles are ready for binding with chain-link fencing. It took Yohana three weeks to cut the branches of mature Commiphora trees, find a tractor to haul them to his boma and wait for the branches to dry before planting them around his boma. This may seem like a long time, but he won’t have to do it again for at least another 25 years.
“Prior to my Living Wall, I had to replace the thorn bushes around my corral every three months. It takes three weeks just to get enough thorns because all the bushes in the area are gone,” Yohana said. Like many other Maasai households, Yohana’s wives and the elders at his boma are responsible for replacing the thorny bush fences. As time passes, the women and elders have to travel farther and farther to get the bushes because the closest ones were cut long ago – a classic case of deforestation.
The Commiphora trees used to reinforce the chain-link fencing for Living Walls are branches or cuttings from mature trees. The “parent” tree isn’t cut down or killed in the process. Our technique helps to prevent habitat loss and further deforestation, in fact we are increasing the number of trees on the Steppe. Livestock owners dry the Commiphora branches for about a week and then plant them around the boma.
“It’s extremely hard work cutting the thorns for traditional bomas,” Yohana said. Remarking on his new Living Wall, he adds, “Not only are the women happy, but I am happy too because now the cattle can’t break out of the boma and I don’t have to collect them when they do.” Yohana isn’t sure how many times carnivores attacked his cattle over the years. But, he says the majority of the attacks happen when the cattle break out of the boma and run off into the open fields and grasslands. Earlier in the year, he lost two cows to lions that had attacked the herd after they had escaped from the boma.
“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want a Living Wall. Everyone with a boma wants a wall,” Yohana said with a wide grin as the last foot of chain-link was nailed into a commiphora post.