At national parks in Kenya and Tanzania, we’re helping elephants and people thrive together.
In the grasslands around Mount Kilimanjaro, elephants wander around a habitat that’s 120,000 square kilometres and includes four different national parks. They travel between parks following traditional movement routes. In recent years, those routes have become flashpoints for human-wildlife conflict.
For centuries, Maasai communities in the area were shepherds, but climate change and the encroaching urban sprawl have forced many Maasai people to become farmers. The result is that crops are often planted in the middle of an elephant highway. When elephants discover these crops, they think they have found a surprise feast.
But a feast for elephants can create a famine for farmers. Once farmers discover the devastation, some hunt down the elephants in revenge. The result is a tragic and vicious cycle—people lose their livelihoods and elephants lose their lives.
In 2010, we signed a five-year agreement with Maasai communities, including leases with 1,600 different Maasai landowners, to safeguard an elephant movement route between Amboseli and Kilimanjaro National Park. That agreement ensured that elephants could safely navigate the corridor and created a foundation for us to more deeply engage Maasai communities.
By working with private sector partners we developed a sustainable facility to promote elephant tourism in the region, and by creating a new source for tourism, we created a new stream of revenue for local communities.
We also helped individuals enter into the formal financial system, learn agricultural methods and receive an education. Through our fully funded scholarship programme, we helped 66 different Maasai students pursue high school and university degrees.
Our scholarship programme has helped Maasai students pursue degrees in everything from business to tourism to clinical medicine. And once they receive their degrees, scholarship recipients are using them to help their local communities. One of those students is Lucy Swakei Sepeko. After earning her degree, Lucy gave a speech to 1,500 community members.
Standing before them, she said that her education had taught her “what it means to be a woman…to be healthy… [and to] know what my rights are.”
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