Maasai Forage Part 1

Foraging is a key part of bushcraft, and this is true wherever you travel. The understanding of plant lore with the knowledge and skill to apply it, can shelter you, keep you hydrated, feed you, cloth you, and mend you. The understanding of plant fibres and how to use them was once common place, but with our modern lives and all our technology, we are no longer reliant on this seemingly old knowledge to get us through week to week.

Up high on the Ngong hills overlooking the Rift Valley our guide,  Anne, enlightens the group on some Maasai plant lore

In fact these days foraging is seen more of a pleasurable pastime or hobby, in which we can delve in and out of, perhaps adding interest to a nice sunny walk or on a crisp Autumn day collecting sloes to help lubricate Christmas with an enjoyable drop of sloe gin maybe partnered with handful of roasted  sweet chestnuts.

There are places however where collecting wild plants is still very much a part of a daily routine in the same way as we may pop into our local shop for our essentials. The Maasai are still very much in touch with their own plant lore in the Kenyan and Tanzanian savannah, but even this is under threat as youth aspire to the bright lights and opportunities that lay in the towns and cities, leaving behind the knowledge they needed for the old ways and who can blame them.

On our Kenya expeditions we have been recording and documenting some of this knowledge and we’d like to take this opportunity to share with you three of them in this blog.


It is wise when we travel abroad to take our own precautions to protect ourselves from things that can potentially make us very ill. Your nurse at your local GP or local travel clinic may be your first stop to understanding what you need depending on where you are travelling. For Kenya some common recommendation for malaria protection, can be either Doxycycline, , Malarone or  Lariam, but you must seek the advice of a health professional to advise what is best for you. For the Maasai they have a little plant they mix with cold water called Esochi to treat Malaria should it take hold.



If collecting suitable material for hand drill in the UK , two of your choices for the hearth are clematis or punky lime. In Kenya it’s the Orobilie tree. Its wood is incredibly  light weight. It’s leaves are also fed to the goats and the children are given a the juice from the bark mixed with milk.

The Chairman demonstrating the hand drill


Many of you may be familiar with the thumb stick, having a simple Y at the top, commonly made from hazel or blackthorn. The Maasai shepherds use Ositeti for their sticks. Like our blackthorn the Ositeti also produces fruit, although not as sour as our sloes.


This was just a little insight into some of the plants the Maasai forage and some of there uses, I hope you have enjoyed it. next time I’ll look to show you some of the other plants and their uses

Jay Jenner


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