The Red Maasai Sheep Presidium is Launched

Slow Food and IFAD are working with indigenous youth to defend and promote their food heritage.

Slow Food and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) are working together to help indigenous communities, and particularly young people, to protect and promot their food heritage, and supporting the sustainability and resilience of their practices. Thanks to the 3-year project Empowering Indigenous Youth and Their Communities to Defend And Promote Their Food Heritage, 300 indigenous young people and more than 500 indigenous producers from Slow Food Presidia, Indigenous Terra Madre, and IFAD networks will be involved.

The main countries involved are Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Kenya. Five existing indigenous Presidia will be strengthened and five new Presidia will be created. Of these ten Presidia, two will be selected to create a system to improve and increase the marketing of indigenous peoples’ products, while exploring participatory guarantee schemes and new ways of labeling.

In East Africa, the new Red Maasai Sheep Presidium aims to protect and safeguard this indigenous breed, which is resilient to diseases and the consequences of climate change. Also known as Tanganyika, the Maasai red sheep is traditionally raised by the Maasai community. It can be found in southern Kenya, northern Tanzania, and parts of Uganda along the Great Rift Valley. For some time now, Maasai land has been torn from shepherds and sold to other groups or private investors, reducing pastures and violently forcing the indigenous community to move. In addition, there is a flight of young people to cities due to recurring droughts as a result of climate change. Finally, since 1970, the country’s agricultural policy has promoted crossbreeding of Red Maasai Sheep with Dorper and other imported breeds, making purebred animals increasingly rare today.

“Preserving Red Maasai Sheep is one important way the indigenous Maasai communities can live sustainably with nature, while preserving their culture and heritage,” says Margaret Tunda Lepore, the Presidium producers’ coordinator. She adds, “Since it is resistant to tough climate conditions that my community faces every year, why not promote and embrace our own, local breed!”

The Presidium aims to strengthen the Maasai community, with particular attention to women and young people, through training activities, technical assistance, exchange of experiences, creation of market outlets, and its involvement in the national and international activities of the Indigenous Terra Madre network.

The Red Maasai Sheep is important for the food security of indigenous communities. It is characterized by a fat tail, thick hair, and red color, though some individuals have a brown head or a mottled mantle. Large in size, the Red Maasai is capable of resisting several local pests and long periods of drought. There are about 50 Maasai breeders of this sheep, in the communities of Rosarian (Nakuru County) and Ol’Keri (Narok County). The sheep are slaughtered at 12 months of age: The meat can be roasted or boiled and is consumed throughout the year, especially at ceremonies, such as weddings and initiations. According to traditional belief, the god of rain entrusted the Red Sheep to the Maasai.

For further informations, please contact:

Presidium Coordinator

John Kariuki Mwangi

Tel: +254 712843776 – j.kariuki@slowfood.it

Producers Coordinator

Margaret Tunda Lepore

Tel. +254 701 569335 – mtunda2003@gmail.com

Slow Food International Press Office

internationalpress@slowfood.it – Twitter: @SlowFoodPress

Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries.

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