Ann Bassarab, a partner in Atlanta‘s Lifelink Network for Children, has joined forces with Nemarrau Ole Tome, Kenya and Tanzania‘s Maasai representative, to bring U.S. tourists to Kenya in the hopes of fostering micro-business opportunities between the Maasai and the West.
The venture, Mr. Ole Tome told GlobalFax, will expose travelers to Maasai culture, including ritual dance, customs and transitioning lifestyles, and will also provide a forum for U.S. businesspersons, specifically designers, to assess the possibility of partnering with the Maasai and establishing a cottage industry in the region.
The Maasai are nomadic cattle-herders, spread across the Serengeti of southern Kenya and Tanzania, a region known for its diverse and abundant wildlife. Rough estimates place the number of Maasai between 250,000 and 500,000.
“From my experience, the Maasai are born entrepreneurs,” said Ms. Bassarab. “There is a good possibility we could establish a market, within the tourist industry in Kenya and in the U.S., for Maasai textiles, craft-and bead-work for example.”
Mr. Ole Tome, who was raised in the Mara, the Maasai’s tribal land in Kenya, stresses the importance of the cultural and business exchange, both for his people and for the visiting tourists.
“The Mara is our plate; that’s where we eat,” said Mr. Ole Tome. “The only way to protect the land is to take part in the tourism that occurs there, and develop positive opportunities for ourselves.”
The establishment of a cottage industry in the region, he hopes, will pave the way for partnerships down the road between the Maasai and the West in medical clinics and perhaps, eventually, a hospital.
Ms. Bassarab, who has worked with micro-business initiatives in both Africa and South America in the past, believes
that a cottage industry program could work well in the Maasai Mara, particularly with the women in the Maasai communities.
For more information about the tours, which are open to both tourists and interested business-people, contact Ms. Bassarab at (404) 788-6822 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Ole Tome is currently conducting speeches about Maasai culture at schools throughout the U.S. through his foundation, the Maasai Heritage Educational School.