BOTTLE FLY TRAP
The nomadic Maasai families of
Kenya depend on their livestock for
a living and care for the animals as
part of the family. This tradition,
combined with their housing
construction methods, which are
usually within the livestock
enclosures, causes the Maasai to be
troubled by flies, which are
attracted to the livestock and their
dung. Disease spread by the flies
directly affects the families’ health
as well as that of the livestock.
Children are highly susceptible to
diseases such as trachoma and
diarrhoea, which are easily
transmitted by flies feeding on
animal dung. A low-cost design of
fly trap, made from two plastic
bottles, helps reduce the
prevalence of these diseases.
A Maasai woman outside her traditional style home.
Photo: Practical Action / Carol Reesby.
As nomadic people, the Maasai traditionally draw on locally available natural resources. Maasai homes
(enkaji) serve as a base from which the families earn a living, interact socially, and shelter from the
elements. It is a place where both people and livestock can live and grow. The house consists of a
rectangular formation with rounded edges and a slightly domed roof. Ventilation and lighting are
provided by holes in the walls near the roof. The holes are usually closed at night during the less
The walls and roof are made from a mixture of earth and animal dung, which is plastered over
branches and twigs that have been intertwined together. A balance of clay, sand and silt is required
for the soil to bind properly. Some Maasai families use the earth from termite hills to plaster their
roofs, which has a good level of cohesion and through practice people have found that, when applied
in a plaster mix, it increases the impermeability of the roof, thus helping to keep the rain at bay. Cow
dung is used in its natural state, as well as in conjunction with mud and ash, as a plaster for floors
and walls, both internally and externally. The fibre-rich nature of cow dung makes it a useful
reinforcing agent, which reduces the soil’s tendency to crack when it dries.
Every Maasai family that keeps livestock will use the hides of those animals once slaughtered.
Treatment is limited to scraping and drying, after which the hides are used as walling and roofing
materials, as well as for added security across the entrance of the abode. Often, a traditional Maasai
bed structure is built into the house walls, over which a hide is stretched to create a type of mattress.
Hides are also used to form shelters when people relocate and their boma is not yet constructed.
These characteristics of the housing invite flies, which can have serious health implications for
Maasai families. Not only do the homes contain animal dung in their construction, they also suffer
from poor ventilation and often house the Maasai family’s livestock when weather conditions are
harsh. The housing therefore offers a ripe feeding and breeding ground for flies.
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