As Kenya becomes a leading African nation in its geothermal energy developments, indigenous land in Mount Suswa become a topic of conversation, as many Maasai fear eviction and displacement.

The Sacred Mount Suswa

About 31 miles from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, lies Mount Suswa, or “Ol Doinyo Lengai”, which is “Mountain of God” in Maa – the language of the Maasai.

The volcanic mountain has been sacred for generations of indigenous Maasai people. Many would often climb the mountain to offer prayers and sacrifice in hopes of receiving healing from illness, infertility or any misfortunes.

Today, more than 1,000 Maasai continue to inhabit the land. The area is essential to the many men and women who farm at the base of Mount Suswa and continue to access the only freshwater supply in the area.

Maasai Geothermal Energy plant
Maasai Women In Olkaria, Kenya Near the KenGen Geothermal Plant

Clean Energy Vs Land Preservation:

In 2020, Kenya’s estimated geothermal energy production was as much as 10,000 megawatts, and accounting for almost 50% of the electricity produced in the East African nation. There is also much optimism as the energy is affordable, clean, and more dependable than Kenya’s primary energy form – hydropower.

­However, although there are many positives, it may be at the cost of the Maasais’ livelihood.

In 2014, the KenGen(Kenya Electricity Generating) geothermal project in Olkaria, Kenya – 30 miles south of Suswa – dispossessed and forced over 1,100 Maasai families to resettle, according to a World Bank investigation.

For the Maasai, fears of displacement to bigger cities continue to increase as another government-owned company plans to drill 150 megawatts in September 2021.

This is a cause of concern for the pastoralist tribe due to the linguistic and employment skills needed to survive in a city environment.

“When the government chases them away, they will not be able to live on the market and the town because many of them don’t even speak Kiswahili. All these people are pastoralists, they keep animals. Where will we put these animals in town?” a local guide told Tom Collins of the African Business.

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