He shared a compelling story about his efforts to organize pastoralist communities in East Africa, focusing on the challenges faced in bridging the gap between traditional cattle herders and crop farmers. The timeless clash between these groups, exemplified by the Maasai and Kikuyu communities in Kenya and Tanzania, centers on conflicts over grazing lands and crop fields.
In his quest to facilitate understanding and cooperation, Theo embarked on a journey through East Africa, seeking the elusive natural leader of the pastoralist communities. Villages along the way would recount the leader’s presence, offering clues to his whereabouts but leaving him in a perpetual search.
Finally encountering the leader in Tanzania, he observed the unique practices of the pastoralist lifestyle. The herder, surrounded by a massive herd of 3000 cattle, and his sons stood on one leg, a curious method they explained as a means of resting the other leg. He noted that a significant portion of the herd comprised female cattle, with bulls primarily used for their strength in pulling sleighs loaded with firewood.
Seeking to enhance the economic viability of the herding practice, Theo suggested a shift in breeding practices. He proposed having a majority of female cattle for regular reproduction, enabling the sale of calves and creating a sustainable source of income for the herder. However, the herder vehemently rejected the idea, likening the cattle to children and refusing to consider selling them.
Undeterred by the rejection, he emphasized the potential for wealth accumulation by selling a portion of the herd annually, transforming the herder into a multimillionaire. Despite the practical advice, the herder remained steadfast in his traditional beliefs. Disheartened, he began his journey back to his vehicle.
Surprisingly, the herder’s sons, armed with smartphones, approached Theo to secure his contact information. This unexpected turn indicated a generational shift within the pastoralist community. The younger generation, exposed to the possibilities through the internet, aspired to explore a different life beyond traditional cattle herding. His encounter highlighted the transformative power of technology in influencing the aspirations and choices of the next generation in East African pastoralist communities.