Emerging stronger from a crisis

In July 2023 we concluded a project implemented in Kenyan Conservancies, specifically in the Maasai Mara region. This project of Emergency Support for Wildlife Conservancies was a reaction on the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the GIZ through AMBERO and NIRAS-IP.

The Kenyan tourism industry contributes 90% of the funding for nature conservation and employs many young people of indigenous origin. The Mara conservancies generate income from lease payments for the landowners and employ community scouts to monitor wildlife. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people lost their incomes.

While we are happy to have achieved the overall focus of the project on stabilising the income of the affected people and communities through strengthening and diversifying their business strategies, we are particularly proud of the activities that promoted gender inclusion and youth empowerment.

Women were not well represented in the conservancy land committees and the conservancy boards, this means men were making most of the decision at all levels, and most of the women did not derive benefits from conservancy resources, including land, which is mainly owned by men. The Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA), being the umbrella association of the conservancies, has been the forefront in advocating for the meaningful participation of women, encouraging their economic empowerment and supporting their leadership representation in conservancy boards.

AMBERO provided a gender equality training to the MMWCA staff and conservancy managers to support and strengthen gender equality interventions and transformation in the Mara landscape. Especially for some of the male participants, the training was an eye opener because they recognized that men have the responsibility of creating positive change and contribution towards girls’ education in the landscape, among others. Also, the Women’s Forum of the MMWCA was strengthened through coaching and training.

To promote youth empowerment, AMBERO contributed to the development of a gender strategy for The Maa Trust (TMT), a youth focused local organisation involved in sustainable livelihoods for communities. In a workshop with the TMT senior management team the strategic document of the trust was reviewed, resulting in a gender-responsive Operational Planning. The TMT team further developed their external strategy, focussing on the support of the communities in the Mara, and the internal strategy, aiming at capacity and career development of its staff.

Including women and youth in the decision-making processes and strengthening their participation and income generation opportunities was a major achievement of this project.

Other great achievements include a professionalisation of the conservancy staff through trainings on management, financial management, anti-corruption, monitoring & control, and organisational development, as much for singular conservancies and organisations, as for governmental agencies.

We also supported these organisations in developing strategies for income diversification, which promotes the independence from the traditional Kenyan tourism, and therefore strengthens the communities of the Maasai Mara not only to get through this pandemic crisis, but also to emerge stronger from it.

We are happy we had the chance to contribute to creating positive economic and social impacts, and we deeply hope the seeds planted in this relatively short intervention will grow to strong plants to give fruits to the Mara Region.