Maasai home cow manure Kenya
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Homes Constructed With Cow Manure?!? In Villages of the Maasai People of Kenya, Yes

 had noticed the modest homes as we were closing in on the Masai Mara National Reserve after starting out in Nairobi; and it seemed like they were made with mud.

Well —  I was partially correct.

Not realizing that I was going to have the opportunity to actually be invited inside one of these houses as part of the total cost of the safari, I tried in vain to take photographs from the moving safari van on a bumpy dirt road with my camera — alas, without success…

…but one of the components of the trip after being welcomed into a village inhabited by people of the Maasai society was that all participants of the safari each would have the opportunity to enter the homes in this particular village.

The photograph displayed at the top of this article shows the actual house which I entered through the narrow doorway without a door; as well as the man who led the “tour” of the home.

This is one of the three puppies sleeping near the doorway without a door to the home. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
This is one of the three puppies sleeping near the doorway without a door to the home. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

After stepping over three sleepy newborn puppies at the entrance of one home — I unfortunately heard the wailing “yip!!!” of one of the puppies after being stepped on by someone else — I was invited to sit down. That was a more difficult task than you might think, navigating my way in an almost completely dark structure — save for a small opening acting as a window — after being out in the bright African sunshine.

I asked the gracious host from what material was the house made. “Cow manure and mud,” he replied.

Cow manure? Homes constructed with cow manure?!? Here I was, dodging literally hundreds of piles of dried cow manure in and out of the village just to get into the structure; and now I am literally sitting inside of the stuff.

The roof was also constructed of a mix of thatch and cow manure. No, there was no odor which suggested that I was sitting in cow manure.

It started to make sense to me: cow manure is apparently waterproof. Reinforced with wood from dead tree trunks and branches, it is sturdy. It is obviously opaque. It apparently can insulate against the elements. It is free and plentiful, as the Maasai people have their own large herd of cattle.

The small houses have a sleeping area; a cooking area; a storage area — and not much else. There is no electricity; no running water; no toilet; no climate control; no luxuries or amenities. This is a village of people who spend their days outside anyway as a community and use their homes only for sleeping, cooking and other basic necessities.

Then again — being within one degree or so south of the Equator — the weather remains rather constant: warm to hot during the day; cool at night. No climate control is necessary.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
The pantry inside of a home inhabited by people of the Maasai society. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
A view of the pantry and cooking area of the “kitchen.” Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
A view of the pantry and cooking area of the “kitchen.” Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
This is a bed, located in the sleeping area of the home. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
I had no idea that his knee was photographed. It was almost completely dark in that structure made of cow manure. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

We were free to take as many photographs inside of the small structure as we wanted; but it was almost pitch black inside and therefore was incredibly difficult to focus on anything — let alone see anything inside of the home — so please accept my apologies for not having better photographs to show you.

I have to admit, though — although I am no closer to wanting to live in a house constructed at least partially of cow manure, I was quite impressed with the ingenuity of the people of the Maasai society and how simple are their everyday lives. I intend to post an article with a photographic chronology of how they create a fire — and they do not use matches. There is something to be said about living without all of the layers of complexity…

…but interestingly enough — despite the fact that most of the people do not own cars or employ most forms of technology which many people around the world embrace — many of them do have cellular telephones and “smartphones”; and I am amazed at the reception they seemed to be able to get even though there was no evidence of any cellular towers to improve their reception.

It was an amazing experience.

All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!