March 16, 2010 Illegal poison in Tanzania - by Jan van den Berg

Saturday morning in Terrat, a village in the Masai plains, six o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting in the dark. There’s no electricity and it’s imposable to start filming as planned. Pipaluk is the first who joins me and we listen together to the same donkey I filmed last time, we hear the birds and watch the slow awakening of the village. Cameraman Viraj Singh and soundman Elango follow later.

The day before we’d arrived in the village where Glory Mollel, film maker in Arusha, comes from and where her parents still live. We’d made a beautiful trip and filmed many wild animals living freely around the village. Glory had told us the Masai never hunt, they only live from their cows.

Glory and Pipaluk had talked about the drought, the dead cows and the Masai, who couldn’t bear seeing their cattle dying “their precious thing” as Glory told us. Many of them committed suicide in recent years because of that.

Later Pipaluk talked with an aunt and a cousin of Glory about the illegal use of DDT. After having been told that the Masai respected nature, and even used local herbs for their medicine, Pipaluk asked them why then use DDT, which is such a dangerous poison. They had been talking together for a while and came out with the following reason: there was no alternative against the fleas.

We heard that in the past the Masai had been nomads, moving from one place to the other. In those days they destroyed their houses when they moved and the cattle skins they sleep on were hung in the sun to dry. This killed the fleas. Now because of drought and land pressure from all sides, they have to stay in one place and the fleas become a real plague. They use DDT, which they buy illegally and very expensively on the market, and are waiting and hoping for less dangerous alternatives.

Then the dancers came. They taught Pipaluk how to dance and the women danced until dark, and they were singing songs that welcomed this wonderful stranger, thanking the god of surprises who’d sent her. Later that night they’d discussed the film Glory is making about the future of her people. The three of them under a mosquito net: Pipaluk, Glory and little Charity, who had just celebrated her first birthday and who gave Glory the motivation for her film.

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