In December of 2011, Laura Ash moved to Tanzania with her family in hopes to light the country with solar energy. A few months later the small family went on a safari and ended up at Kirurumu lodge above Lake Manyara in the Great Rift Valley. There, Laura went on a plant walk with a Maasai herbalist, Sayanga. After that walk, and a plethora of questions, Sayanga asked Laura to help him document his traditional medicine knowledge.
Laura was then invited to the Misigiyo village in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the home location of Sayanga’s village (boma) for more than 100 years. Within a year of multiple plant and identification excursions, safari’s, sacred retreats, video documentation and the support of the community of Maasai herbalists, villagers, the chief and his wives, the Maasai fieldwork is complete.
In January 2013 Laura moved back to the United States and continued to work on the Maasai project from afar. In July 2014 Laura and her team will bring a published Maasai Traditional Medicine book back to Sayanga and his village to support their endeavor in preserving their indigenous knowledge and increasing their use of traditional medicines while safeguarding their rights.
Every five years for the next twenty years, The Herbal Anthropology Project’s team will bring another shipment of books to the village with the purpose to document the impact the HAP has had upon the village and their use of traditional medicines and update information as requested by the community members.
By August 2014 Sayanga had received 100 books, most of which he has sold to local safari lodges and a small portion he has kept for the local primary schools to teach the young Maasai children their traditional medical knowledge. The remaining 400 books will be sent to Sayanga at quantities of 100 at a time within the next 3 years. The funds that are coming from the sale of the books are buying a cow for the traditional Orpul and keeping his village from using sustenance farming as a method of financial gain, keeping their traditional food lifestyle thriving.
We are currently applying for funds in order to do a five year evaluation of the impact of the Misigiyo Maasai project focusing on the health of mothers and babies, continued use of traditional medicines, and how the protection of Intellectual Property is utilized the community at large.