Kenya

All One, All One… a day in the life of my Maasai office

Kenyan jewellery makers
I am sitting under a large acacia tree overlooking the Maasai Mara listening to the sound of cow bells as a group of young Maasai boys pass by with their grazing herds. Overhead a flock of Crested Cranes fly by making their harmonious “All One, All One” call of unity.

In all directions as far as the eye can see, the black dots of wildebeest are interspersed with the red robes of Kenya’s Maasai people, drifting across the plains to take part in today’s meeting under the tree.

I am here to kick-start a new Maasai women’s livelihood initiative in partnership with the Travel Foundation and the local Kenyan fair trade crafts intermediary BawaHope.

About 100 Maasai women settle down under the shade of the acacia tree and we begin today’s workshop on new product design. I am amazed when the colour wheel the women excitedly paste together from torn out magazine snippets matches exactly the colours forecast to adorn supermodels on the catwalks of London, Paris and Rome next year!

When I ask why they only use bright primary coloured beads to make the jewellery they sell to tourists, the women reply in unison “Because they are our colours – we have always used them”. They would also love to design jewellery in new colours if they could only get the beads.

Kenyan jewelery makingThrough our new “Guaranteed Maasai Crafts Project” we are working hand-in-hand with Maasai women in the Mara Triangle and Suswa, jewellery producers in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenyan designers and the eminent UK beadwork jewellery designer Marilyn Phipps, to design an inspiring new range of contemporary Maasai jewellery that will be wearable and attractive to the UK tourist market, along with the affluent Kenyan domestic market.

We will bypass exploitative brokers by using wholesalers who respect fair trade principles to get the new product range stocked in the gift shops of safari lodges, hotels and retail outlets in Mombasa and Nairobi, giving the Maasai access to new ‘fair trade’ markets and, importantly, a lifeline out of poverty.

As the day draws to a close and we make our way on foot across the African savannah back to the Maasai villages, the boys with their herds of grazing cattle catch us up and cheekily enquire “When are you coming to work with us Maasai men again – we too can make jewellery!”.

Guest Blog by Dr Cheryl Mvula, Director of the social enterprise Tribal Voice Communications 

Find out more about our Guaranteed Maasai Craft Project

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How did beach sellers benefit from our training?

Julius, with some of the Nyali beach operators

Julius, with some of the Nyali beach operators

Around 572 beach operators working along Bamburi beach have undertaken training as part of the Mombasa Beach Operators’ Livelihoods Project in Kenya.  Programme Manager Julius Owino Ndeke, who works for the Travel Foundation’s delivery partner Mombasa Coast and Tourism Association, recently spoke to some of the beach operators about what the training has meant to them.

Mary Wambui Chege, Nyali Curio seller

Mary Wambui Chege

“I am already benefiting from the project. I am able to work very well with my colleagues, speak well to customers and also to hotels. My selling skills have improved, and although we don’t have many clients at the moment, I am able to sell”.  Mary Wambui Chege, Nyali Curio seller

 

JOEL MBOYA KYANGANGU, Curio seller and Chairman of Nyali Curio Group

Joel Mboya Kyangangu

“Now I can handle my customers very well and can also display my products better. Now we are being recognised as part and parcel of tourism by other stakeholders like hotels. My earnings have improved because of the increased sales, and I can feed and school my children and family.” Joel Mboya Kyangangu, Curio seller and Chairman of Nyali Curio Group

 

Christine Amondi (left) and Waithera Kinyajui

Christine Amondi (left) and Waithera Kinyajui

“My communication with clients has improved, my sales have increased and I am able pay my son’s school fees.” Christine Amondi, Nyali Massage seller

“I have already learnt a lot that can help me not only in the massage business but also in other business. I am able to start other projects – I have opened a salon in Nairobi where my sister is working and I have also started a chicken farm for my mum.” Waithera Kinyajui, Nyali Massage seller

 

Harrison Munyoki

Harrison Munyoki

“The programme has changed my image and I am more appreciated by other stakeholders like big hotels which never recognized us before. This is a new dawn for the beach trade – it is like a new born baby with a bright future.” Harrison Munyoki, Nyali Curio Seller

 

The project is being funded through a ST-EP Destination Management Fund, a partnership between Travel Foundation and UNWTO ST-EP Foundation and being led by the Mombasa Coast and Tourism Association (MCTA).