Maasai youth conservationists protecting wildlife on 15,000 acres of natural habitat in Kenya. Free project T-shirt when U donate $50.
Julias Ndyopo, Ann Saruni Nampayio, Longisa Ben, and Sinoni Kerika Fred, are young Maasai who believe in nature conservation. They live on Siria Plateau next to the famed Mara-Serengeti in Kenya and are developing exciting new walking safaris to raise money for habitat preservation. Already visitors can go on half and full day treks led by trained Maasai naturalists. Putting more eyes on 15,000 acres of native grasslands and forests is a start for conservation, but these brave young Maasai men and women (Morans) face serious challenges economically and socially.
As part of the global poor in Africa, they have plenty of cultural and natural capital, but no start-up capital. Their current funding comes from Life Net Nature - http://lifenetnature.org , an all volunteer charity (501-C3) that invites volunteers to help conservation professionals on projects in biodiversity hotspots. In Kenya, Life Net volunteers cover their own room, board, and travel, and for two-weeks they work with this amazingly talented group of Maasai youth to design, improve, and market the walking safaris, monitor wildlife and livestock, and share ideas for how to create and pay for the new protected area. The team donates fuel-efficient stoves and provides financial incentives to local families currently living in the huge buffer zone to reduce deforestation, over-grazing, and harassment of wildlife.
The whole natural ecosystem on the Siria Plateau is under threat, so the youth group and their supporters must hurry to protect it. Primates and a stunning array of birds and mammals are literally losing ground everyday. Hybrid maize companies are moving northward, convincing Maasai families to till precious grasslands, permanently destroying forage for livestock and wildlife. Forest and forested corridors that Masai Mara’s elephants use for birthing areas are being decimated for firewood and charcoal. Some Maasai families are fencing recently privatized parcels thwarting local movements of giraffe, eland, gazelle, and other wildlife species. Overstocking of cattle, sheep, and goats destroys valuable grasslands, causes erosion, and damages water quality.
Fortunately, Maasai Morans Conservation and Walking Safaris, the community-based organization (CBO) created by the youth, has the local community on their side. Many local Maasai believe that preservation of grasslands, forests, and wildlife are in their future best interests. They want to sustain a prosperous but culturally Maasai future, to protect grasslands for livestock, to make money from wildlife viewing, and to sustain local forests for fuel, water quality, and ecotourism.
The Siria Plateau Maasai conservationists are struggling to find financial support for this effort despite millions of dollars pouring into the Masai Mara National Reserve immediately next to them. Clearly the goal to save the Siria Plateau can only benefit Masai Mara’s wildlife, so reserve funds should be allocated for protecting this buffer zone as soon as possible.
How can you help? Share this story with others. Donate through RAZOO or at Life Net. Volunteer on Life Net’s Kenya project. If you are travelling around Kenya, come do a walking safari with the youth group. Like “Maasai Walking Safaris – Kenya on Facebook”.
If you visit the Mara Reserve, investigate whether your lodge is burning charcoal and ask them to stop and to use natural gas instead in order to preserve local forests. Help encourage businesses in Africa to support this project via 1% for the planet. Encourage BINGOS (Big non-government organizations) to support this effort. Finally, encourage the Mara Conservancy and the Narok County Council to support this project directly by meeting and funding Maasai Morans Conservation and Walking Safaris and other local conservation groups on the Siria Plateau.
Remember…."Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead)