Traditional way of life
The Maasai have maintained a pastoral way of life, co-existing with wildlife for several thousands of years. But today scarcer land availability, limited sources of income and lack of education are some of the serious obstacles facing the Maasai community. While habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict are the primary causes of the lions’ disappearance from Africa’s savannas, demographic increase and land-use changes put additional pressure to Mara’s wildlife.
Wildlife as source of sustainable income
Situated just north of the Masai Mara National Reserve, Naboisho conservancy was established in 2010 to protect wildlife while helping locals to diversify their livelihoods and better cope with climatic fluctuations common in the drylands. Approximately 500 local Maasai landowners and Basecamp Foundation agreed to the formation of the conservancy as a community wildlife area. Naboisho Conservancy is also home to the Koiyaki Guiding School which trains local youth to become safari guides, providing employment opportunities and encouraging the long-term conservation of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Due to a lack of professional skills, less than 20% of tour guides in the Masai Mara are locals. Basecamp Foundation also launched a project to mobilise hundreds of local women into micro-finance groups. The women who have joined the program meet on a weekly basis, they own grocery shops, sell beadwork, trade livestock, keep bees, and lend money with interest. The meetings also give the chance to discuss critical topic such as health education, adult literacy, advocacy against early marriages and education about good governance.
Volunteer work focuses on research drives to game counts for conservancy management, documenting elephants and big cat sightings such as lion, leopard and cheetah to aid in the conservation of these endangered animals as well as helping camps locate big cats for tourist sightings. This enhances tourist experience and helps sustain the conservancy in the long term. Two lion conservation projects benefit from the volunteer monitoring activities. The data once submitted allow to map lion’s home ranges, monitor reproduction and identify long term population trends.I joined the volunteer program on November 2011. My first night was quite disturbing, knowing that lions were wandering around while I could see through the gaps of my tent – closed with just a few safety pins.. No fences, or guards, just a thin layer of fabric was separating us; but after a few nights – and a fixed zip – you learn that even predators like lions just want to be let alone.