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Antonella and Komoni demonstrate a beehive at Oloisukut Conservancy, WWF-Kenya © Austine Okande
Small-scale enterprises are key in helping Maasai communities rise out of poverty. One example of these is beekeeping which brings not only financial benefits but also greater independence and influence for women in a traditionally patriarchal society. With Covid-19 having decimated tourism incomes in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, diversified livelihoods have never been more important.
For Antonella Mpario, her first step into small-scale business as a beekeeper has proved fruitful in more ways than one. Not only does this bring much-needed funds for her and her community, but it has also resulted in greater equality for both her and her fellow female beekeepers in a traditionally patriarchal society.
Antonella is one of more than 100 female members of the Oloisukut Conservancy in Kenya who will benefit from a community-run beekeeping initiative supported by WWF.
She explained, “With this support, we feel more empowered to take up leadership in the management of the conservancy. The initiative comes at a good time when there is a strong appeal to empower girls and women in my community. We no longer want to depend on our husbands, this business venture is a sure way of empowering local communities financially.”
Traditional apiculture was not found to be as profitable, and could also be unsustainable, due to the need to cut down trees to make the log hives. WWF supported the shift to more sustainable livelihoods by providing 50 modern commercial beehives.
As well as being more sustainable, the new hives are also less labour intensive – as well as financially rewarding. Komoni Letoto is Chairlady of the initiative and treasurer at the conservancy – a key role. “We project our first harvest will give us about 850 kg of honey, estimated at 340,000 shillings. (£2,265). Harvesting will be done biannually. We plan to plough back part of the money to the venture and share the rest among the members,” she said.
Commercial beekeeping is one example of the type of enterprise that will be funded via WWF’s Land for Life Appeal, which aims to improve the livelihoods of 27,000 Maasai people in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Through the Land for Life project, WWF is collaborating with local communities and partners to develop solutions for people and wildlife to coexist and thrive.
This is never more important than now – when the revenue on which many wildlife conservancies depend has been decimated by Covid-19. People have lived alongside wildlife in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania for centuries, but in addition to pressures from climate change and poorly planned development, the downturn in tourism has hit communities that depend entirely on wildlife revenue hard. Job losses, food shortages and pay cuts for conservancy rangers have put threatened species at greater risk.
Across East Africa, wildlife protected areas generate $48bn through tourism, which has now virtually dried up. Since the start of the global pandemic, cancelled tourism bookings in the Mara’s community conservancies in Kenya have already topped $5m. One conservancy, Mara North, reports it stands to lose almost $1m in tourist income through COVID-19. And in one Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania, the Enduimet WMA, 40% of its revenues had come from tourism.
Financial and practical support to develop profitable additional livelihoods are essential to help the efforts of Maasai communities to build back better following Covid-19. Business Fights Poverty members can make a huge difference to these communities by supporting WWF’s Land for Life Appeal. For all public donations given to the appeal before 2 February 2021, the UK government will match them, up to £2 million. Donate at wwf.org.uk/life
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