The greatest income generator for the local community so far by our camp, beyond the land rent and infrastructure installed by the conservancy collectively, has been through camp ‘sokos’ or craft markets, when local women’s beading groups sell their products to guests directly and keep 100% of the proceeds. This model, which was started at Mara Plains, is now being duplicated by the Olare Motorogi Conservancy Trust and other camps across the region. The fifteen or so groups that that project supports have made many thousands of dollars so far. The women generally spend their money on healthcare, education, school books and uniforms for their children, and a higher standard of living, thus promoting the greater community. This self-help approach is now also giving women the confidence to request adult literacy and business classes, having never had the opportunity to go to school, and Mara Plains is helping them to realize these dreams through vocational training, teacher employment and conservation workshops.
Field trips into the conservancy for local school children in GP cars with GP guides has been a hugely popular project and is a reward for ‘Environment Club’ members who contributed to a successful tree planting program in the school grounds. Most of these children have never before seen the big game on the conservancies that they will one day soon inherit to look after, so for them to learn about it from guides teaching them in Maa is a hugely beneficial experience for them.
The women’s beading group at Endoinyo Erinka is now also doing very well, forming a registered business of their own and receiving international orders through ‘Ethical Fashion Africa’. Group members are setting up their own bank accounts, which is a very empowering move by uneducated women, leading the way for Maasai women across the Mara.
Mara Plains guests have visited this group for over a year, spending time in the homes of the 60+ group members, as well supporting their beading cooperative by buying jewelry and crafts to take home with them.
Mara Plains worked with the women of this group to expand their skill set by investing in a non-electric sewing machine and bringing in tailors to train the women how to use it.