People, livestock and wildlife have lived together on the savannas of East Africa for millennia. Their coexistence has declined as conservation policies increasingly exclude people and livestock from national wildlife parks, and fast-growing human populations and development push wildlife and pastoralists onto ever more marginal lands. The result has been less wildlife, and more pastoral people struggling to diversify their livelihoods as access to pasture and water becomes harder to find.
This book examines those livelihood and land use strategies in detail. In an integrated research effort that involved researchers, local communities and policy analysts, surveys were carried out across a wide range of Maasai communities providing contrasting land tenure and national policies and varying degrees of intensification of agriculture, tourism and other activities. The aim was to create a better understanding of current livelihood patterns and the decisions facing Maasai at the start of the 21st Century in the context of ongoing environmental, political, and societal change. With a research design that linked quantitative and qualitative methods and research teams across multiple pastoral sites for the first time, a comparison of livelihood strategies and returns to livestock, crops, wildlife tourism, and other activities across Kenyan and Tanzanian Maasailand was possible.
While livestock remains the critical anchor for most Maasai households, many are obtaining income from a variety of alternative sources. Unfortunately, income from wildlife/tourism, an option seen as most desirable by many because of its potential to provide economically and environmentally ‘win-win’ situations, still benefits relatively few Maasai. Similarly, although governments favor agricultural intensification, significant crop income or enhanced food security from subsistence cropping elude most.
This book provides a rich source of new data from across Maasailand and its unparallelled multi-site comparative analyses give valuable lessons of broader applicability. It is a valuable resource for anyone, researchers, development workers and policy makers, who is concerned with improving environmental as well as economic security on the wildlife-rich Maasai pastoral lands in Kenya and Tanzania.
From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2011:
"Bessica's voice is funny, goofy, anxious, and absolutely emotionally authentic...Readers negotiating their own middle-school minefields or soaking up all the preparatory information they can find will breathlessly follow Bessica's escapades."
VOYA - Laura Lehner-Ennis
Bessica Lefter's two best friends have abandoned her just weeks before starting middle schoolher grandmother takes off on an RV adventure with her Internet boyfriend, Willy, and Sylvie's mother transfers her to a different school after determining that Bessica is a dangerous influence. Bessica is devastated but is determined to become a whole new woman. With humor and panache, she pummels her way through her first weeks of middle school, making misstep after misstep. Right off the bat, she gets on the bad side of the resident bullies, lands in the principal's office with a goth girl who might end up being her only friend, and hacks into her grandmother's computer in a misguided attempt to find her a better boyfriend who won't steal her away from Bessica. Trying out for team mascot against one of the most popular girls in school is a big risk that could make or break her socially, but Bessica is not someone who avoids challenge. Though it starts off on a sad notelosing Sylvie and Grandma at the same time seems particularly unjustBessica's tale rebounds into a fun and realistic story of a girl reinventing herself. She tries so hard that the reader cannot help but cheer her onher voice is funny and true and very sympathetic. Many a middle school girl will find a piece of herself in Bessica Lefter. Reviewer: Laura Lehner-Ennis
Bessica Lefter looked forward to middle school until a rash decision to get matching pixie haircuts led to her having to negotiate the new school entirely on her own, without her longtime best friend Sylvie. Well-meaning adults and former students give her conflicting advice. On her own she finds it hard to avoid the psycho-bullies and make new friends. Eating cookies from the vending machine in "loner town" had not been her plan. On top of that, her grandmother and best ally has gone off on a trip in her new friend Willy's motor home. One subplot revolves around Bessica's use of an online-dating service to find her grandmother a more suitable friend. Another involves Bessica's efforts to join the cheerleading squad, although she doesn't like to be upside down. The first-person narration reveals the inconsistencies of preteendom, the magnified problems and rapid emotional swings. Both family and school are believable, but, appropriately, this is all about Bessica, a character whose newfound bear persona schoolmates and readers alike can applaud.(Fiction. 9-13)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–6—Poor Bessica doesn't think things can get any worse. On the same day, she learns that her best friend, Sylvie, is going to a different school and that her grandma is going on a six-week trip, leaving her to navigate her upcoming entry into middle school on her own. How will she know how to avoid the dweebs, the psycho-bullies, and the alts? How will she know which clubs to join and which table to sit at in the lunchroom? And will she ever get her locker open? Bessica takes everything very seriously, but many of the situations in which she finds herself are humorous. She is an "everytween" with the typical myopia of the age, and as such many readers will relate to her struggle to find a place to belong and applaud her hard-won position in the middle-school hierarchy.—Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI
Read an Excerpt
I stared into the dark, cavernous hole with my best friend, Sylvie. I didn't know what had made the hole or how far down it went or if its bottom contained dangerous sludge. To be honest, neither Sylvie nor I cared that much about holes. The less we knew about this one, the better.
"I'm not sure," Sylvie said.
This was the sort of thing Sylvie Potaski always said. She wasn't the kind of person who would go down in history for leading a revolution where people burned flags or bras. She was the kind of person who would check with other people (several times) about what they thought about burning flags or bras. Some people might consider this a shortcoming. But I didn't mind it. Or that she repeatedly licked her fingers after she peeled an orange. Sylvie Potaski was my best friend.
Sylvie stopped looking into the hole and started looking at our diary again. Every page was full. This wasn't because of me. It was Sylvie. She was detail-oriented. She couldn't just write in the diary that she saw a tree. She'd tell you how green the leaves were and how brown the bark was and how much shade the tree gave and if there happened to be a bird in it. I'd read every word she wrote in our diary. And she'd read every word I wrote. Because our diary was collaborative, which meant that we each paid for half of it and we both got to use it.
Writing in it had been a lot of fun. We'd passed the diary back and forth for three years. At one point, we thought about keeping a blog instead, but then we saw a story on the news about two girls in Utah who had one, and they posted lots of pictures of their cats, and they got over one hundred thousand hits a month. Sylvie and I didn't want one hundred thousand hits a month, so we kept writing in our diary.
Except it wasn't fun anymore. Because I didn't want anybody finding what we'd written. Some of it was stupid. Actually, a ton of it was. And I regretted that. Especially the stuff I wrote in third grade about liking Kettle Harris. He turned out to be such a dork. And if I went to middle school and somebody managed to find written proof that I liked a dork, I'd be bummed for the rest of my life. And ostracized. Which was what popular kids did to dorks and people who liked dorks. It basically meant that you lived inside an imaginary trash can and that nobody talked to you.
Sylvie held our diary over the hole, but she didn't drop it. I hadn't expected this event to take all afternoon. I sighed. I wanted to go to the big irrigation canal across from my house and observe the flotsam, and then go inside and watch television, and then beg my grandmother to drive us to the mall.
"What if I lock it inside something in my bedroom?" Sylvie asked.
"That's a terrible idea," I said. "Anytime you lock something up, you're just begging for it to get stolen." That was why criminals robbed bikes from bike racks. Didn't she know that?
"Sylvie, remember the pages where we left our toe prints and then wrote poems to our toes?"
Sylvie blinked. Sylvie was always blinking.
"And remember all those awful pictures we drew of our classmates with fart bubbles near their butts?"
Sylvie nodded. Those particular drawings occurred in fourth grade. The fart bubbles had been my idea. But she was the one who sketched them.
"The diary needs to disappear. When we show up at North Teton Middle School, we can't be haunted by our pasts. We need to walk down those halls like two brand-new people."
Sylvie looked up at me and did more blinking.
"Just toss it," I said.
"But what if one day when I'm old, like thirty, I want to look back at how I was feeling and thinking when I was in elementary school?"
"That will never happen," I said. "Trust me."
I wanted the diary out of my life. In addition to its being embarrassing, I thought Sylvie had grown too attached to it. Sylvie held the notebook tightly as she stared down into the hole. The ground where we stood was about to have a storage lot built on top of it for farm equipment. And after that happened, after it was covered with a thick coat of cement, after front-end loaders and tractors and hay balers were parked there, our diary would be buried forever.
"Can I keep one part that means a lot to me?" she asked.
And even though I wanted her to throw the whole thing away, I also had a soft heart. And so I said, "Okay. But it has to be ten pages or less."
Sylvie opened the diary and tugged at a group of pages in its center. After she ripped them out, she folded them carefully and put them in her back pocket.
"What did you save?" I asked.
"My drawings of the ocean," Sylvie said.
And that really surprised me. Because those drawings weren't so hot. When Sylvie finally dropped the diary into the hole, the pages fluttered in the breeze like a bird trying to fly. Except it didn't fly. The diary dropped like a rock. Lower and lower. Bonk. Bonk. Bonk. It smacked against the side of the hole as it tumbled. And then the sounds ended.
"Kiss it goodbye," I said. "That thing is in China now."
I walked away from that hole in the ground, feeling like I'd solved something important.
"We're about to have the best year of our lives," I said.