The Maasai Community
The Maasai are semi-nomadic pastoralists with a colorful and proud cultural heritage centered on their cattle and strong communal social organization. Their traditional dress, language, music, and dance are all instantly and intentionally recognizable as “Maasai”. Their age-old rituals form important pillars in identity and well-being and traditional beliefs towards wildlife have further enhanced a generally peaceful and mutually beneficial co-existence between people, wildlife, and the land. The common religion amongst the Maasai community is Christianity. The Maasai communities around the conservancy mainly practice pastoralism, keeping cattle, predominantly the Zebu Cattle, The Dorper Sheep, and the small East African Goats. The community sells their livestock at the Aitong’ Markets on Thursdays, Mararianda, and Talek on Wednesdays, and Lemek on Thursdays. The community also depends on lease payments obtained from leasing their land to the conservancy. The community also practices subsistence farming in the areas outside the conservancy, mainly growing maize and beans.
The community’s settlement patterns are majorly influenced by land use, land potential, land tenure, and urbanization. Settlement takes place in many forms, including permanent urban settlements, temporary or semi-permanent bomas, tourism camps, research centers, and permanent wildlife forces bases. Electricity reaches Lemek, Aitong Center, and Mararianda
MNC realizes that the economic development and prosperity of landowners and local communities are inextricably linked to the conservancy’s ultimate success.
MNC’s member camps have set up numerous projects, which highly benefit the local communities. They have established educational as well as health facilities with a focus on maternal and child disease, HIV/Aids, TB, malaria, and waterborne diseases. Several member camps are also supporting women’s empowerment enterprises, including the development of new income-generating activities, such as handicraft projects.
MNC also has a cultural Manyatta policy allowing village residents to sell souvenirs (including beadwork) on-site at designated Cultural Manyattas. The Manyattas are well-maintained and allow guests to immerse themselves into the Maasai culture. Funds collected from the Cultural Manyatta centers are channeled towards the bursary kitty to support the community’s education initiatives.
Both MNC & its member camps have ensured that priority is given to the community in terms of employment, to ensure revenue generated goes back to the community. The Conservancy and its member camps are also committed to employing and empowering women in the local community. Mararianda has over 40 businesses while Aitong has over 70 businesses consisting mainly of retail shops, pubs, and food kiosks. The main imported trading items include clothing, building materials, and cereals mostly from Kilgoris, Kisii & Narok. The main exports are livestock and beadwork.
Communities living in natural wildlife areas must be provided with the economic incentives to set aside their land for wildlife conservation. In the 1980s & 1990s, growing land fragmentation began to lead to the environmental degradation of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and exacerbated community impoverishment. Without a partnership between Maasai landowners and the private tourism sector, it was difficult to ensure sustainable, well-coordinated, and effective wildlife protection along with recognizable benefits for all stakeholders. In 2008 the founding members of MNC decided to approach the local Maasai leaders to jointly find a sustainable long-term solution for the conservation of the area. After many consultations, held under the shade of acacia trees, 750 Maasai landowners decided to lease their land to the Mara North Conservancy, which was officially established on the 1st of January 2009. This new partnership established a truly innovative approach, whereby the MNC member camps guaranteed to pay fixed monthly lease payments to the Maasai landowners, regardless of tourism ebbs and flows, for the privilege of carrying out their game drives within this exclusive wildlife area.
For more information please contact the MNC Administrator
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