The saying goes – “If you empower a woman you empower the whole community”. This is true in the town of Dol Dol where women have taken the initiative to build Manyattas with the intention of promoting eco-tourism as an alternative source of income. The idea is to let traditional practices shine while promoting sustainable conservation practices, in a setting that allows tourists to fully immerse themselves into the Maasai community.
The idea came to life after the community needed alternative sources of income to tree logging and charcoal burning that was being carried out at Mukogodo forest. In February this year, 300 women, all reformed charcoal burners, came together to form Naramat Environmental CBO with the help of their area Chief – Kaise Maxwell. He insisted that creating significant change within the community needed women to spearhead the process, saying; “women in this community are the sole bread winners, I knew if we empower the women we will empower the whole community and individuals as well.”
Traditional Maasai culture dictates that there is little chance of women inheriting or owning entities that would allow them to generate income. They focus mainly on making beads; building manyattas for family use as well as carry out basic homestead chores. Men herd the livestock as the women go out to look for food to provide meals for their families. The intensity of activities geared to support families also increases during dry seasons.
Women wake up very early to fetch water, milk cows and walk for miles to sell charcoal to residents in neighbouring villages. Before the introduction of alternative sources of income, such as eco-tourism manyattas, the women from Dol Dol would make charcoal from timber harvested from Mukogodo forest – Kenya’s last remaining indigenous forest, decreasing the forest’s cover at an alarming rate. During the formation of Naramat Environmental CBO, Chief Maxwell informed members on the repercussions of deforestation and encouraged members to forgo the practice. As a result of this, communities in the area now play an active role in the protection of Laikipia’s forest resource, as well as gain knowledge in alternative sources of income to support their livelihood.