What The Drought Took from Us

4 Maasai women, living in Arusha, Tanzania, share how drought and climate change have affected their lives.

Dry and Parched land (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

The Maasai are known to be one of the oldest and culturally rich communities. Over the years, they have changed from a nomadic to a pastoral society. The community living in the Losimingori village of Arusha, Tanzania is currently facing a severe water crisis.

100-year-old Naitapuaki (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

The primary reason for this is deforestation and climate change. Naitpuaki, a 100-year-old Maasai woman told us “50 years ago there was a dense forest around here, but the climate change took away our trees and water. Deforestation has killed the wildlife.”

Dust haze (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

To get water, women and young girls have to walk a long distance, around 6 to 7 hours, to Nanja dam. The water they collect sustains their families and livestock for a day or two after which they have to walk again. Due to this, girls have to drop out of school to support their families.

We spoke to 4 Maasai women about how the drought has affected their lives, and this is what they shared with us-

Ester at the dam (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL


Ester walks four times a week to the Nanja dam to fetch water. Her health is weak. She suffers from chest pain. “I have to continue this way. I have children. Sometimes they come to help. But most days, I avoid asking for their help so that they can study."

Anna Yamat (2021) by Ayushi JaiswalProject FUEL


It takes Anna six hours to fetch water from the Nanja dam. She takes four buckets along with her to bring water back. If she falls short on water, she sometimes has to borrow it from her neighbours or buy a bucket from the market. In a day, she consumes just five mugs.

Mary Tayai (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

Mama Mary

“For me having water is half the assurance of life. It's hard for me to imagine there are people in the world who have water and misuse it. They need to know that there are many like me, living in a drought-affected village that only gets worse, year after year."

Women rearing cattles (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

In the Maasai society, cattle are seen as a form of wealth. Generally, a Maasai owns around 14 cattle, during favourable conditions. Due to the drought, there is very little water for the cattle. Many villagers have lost their cattle in the past few years.

Agnes (2021) by Ayushi JaiswalProject FUEL


50-year-old Agnes earns around 3000 TZS by selling firewood, which takes her 3 hours to fetch from the forest. She uses this money to buy essentials and clothes for her children and herself.

Enkisoma (2021) by Advithi EmmiProject FUEL

“I want my sons and daughters to get educated and escape this difficult life. Education doesn’t die in a drought like a cow does.”, Agnes shared

Cattle and the Moran (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

We asked them how different their life would be if they had easy access to water?

Interviewing Ester (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

Ester said, "If I won a water lottery somehow and received a lot of water, I would first thank God. I will sit down to make Maasai jewellery. It is something I deeply enjoy but hardly find time for. I could sell that jewellery to villagers and tourists as a source of income."

Lady with five cups (2021) by Advithi EmmiProject FUEL

“Even if I had 5 buckets of water to use within a day, I will still not consume all of it. I use 3 buckets to wash clothes, but still not all of them. I will still save two for later use.”, said Anna. “It is important to preserve what you have to use for another day.”

Nanja Dam (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

For Mama Mary, monsoon is her favourite season. “When it rains, I get everything I need. There is enough milk, good meat and the cows are healthy too. I can go to church, do whatever I want to and sometimes I can even go fishing.” 

Filling buckets of water (2021) by Vibhor YadavProject FUEL

“I don't complain to God about this situation. We, humans, have caused this. God has nothing to do with this. This is all humans and their actions.”  

Mama Mary (2018) by Yashasvi JuyalProject FUEL

“I smile despite the challenges because I am optimistic. I believe that God is around me, and one day he will send his people to help me and my community.” 

Credits: Story

Project FUEL would like to thank the Maasai community in the Losimingori village of Arusha, Tanzania for opening their hearts and home to this research. 

This exhibit is part of the Wise Wall Project, an initiative of Project FUEL, to document, design, and strengthen the wisdom of rural communities and marginalized villages using art and community outreach programs. In the third edition of this project, we collaborated with the Maasai, in Arusha, Tanzania, to build an on-ground community centre for the people and bring an exclusive insight into the life, lifestyle, and learnings of this inspiring community.

Photography: Vibhor Yadav, Siddharth Govindan
Wall Murals: Poornima Sukumar
Canvas Art: Advithi Emmi
Cultural Consultant and Translators: Kaay Ndoika Lengima, Elisha Olchakai Kirumui and Lemali Ndoika

Research, Interviews and Curation: Project FUEL
Project Partners: Vijana Inspiring Foundation, Vikram Solar Ltd., Lions Club of Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Google Arts & Culture

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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