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Friends of the Maasai Newsflash

Willem Lageweg - Chairman Friends of the Maasai


Womengroup in Tikoshi responsible for the communitygarden.

A holistic approach
Maasai people react with a holistic approach to big issues such as climatechange, persisting droughts
and many other problems they have to deal with. People, livestock and wildlife belong to the same
system in their view on life. You cannot bring solutions to one of them without taking into account
the other parts of the system. That’s what many Maasai people made clear to the board of Friends of
the Maasai during their fieldtrip at the end of August and the beginning of September 2023.

Nelson Ole Kirrokor, director of Nkoilale Community Development Foundation in the Mara region:
‘taking care of the environment, giving local people the lead and economic empowerment have to go
hand in hand to come to sustainable solutions in our region’.

The board of Friends of the Maasai visited several Maasai communities to learn about the challenges
and the solutions in different parts of Maasailand.

Tikoishi and Orpirikata
In Tikoshi and Orpirikata the first encouraging results of introducing permaculture in these remote
areas were presented. Now these communities have gained some experience with growing
vegetables in community gardens their next step is to start with kitchen gardens.

Friends of the Maasai, supported by some donors, funds the cost of training and material to make a
well prepared start. The training is given by Joseph Lentunyoi from the Permaculture Center in
Laikipia. Janice Nkoyato Mutui and Nice Syapei from the Amboseli area joining him. By learning and
cooperating together Maasai from different areas can implement new solutions faster and on a
broader scale than working on their own.

Lessons learned
The fieldtrip learned many things. One important element was that Maasai, and especially women
and the youth are very eager to learn when they are exposed to new knowledge. Further the trip
made very clear that a holistic approach fits to the Maasai culture and is the only way to sustainable
solutions. A third conclusion was that economic empowerment and new sources of income for the
Maasai who until now mainly live from their cattle is very important.

The communities that have been visited by Friends of the Maasai are invited to come up with new
plans to make the situation for both people, livestock and wildlife more futureproof. Together with
their representatives the board of Friends of the Maasai will reach out to donors and other partners
to make their dreams come true.

White Mountain Movement - Restoring Maasai Culture and Ecosystems

Friends of the Maasai collaborates with organizations like Embassy of the Earth, see Both organizations follow a "community-driven" approach. Embassy of the Earth was the initiator to build a large Maasai community comprising members from Kenya and Tanzania, known as the "White Mountain Movement." Friends of the Maasai is now backing this movement and connecting the Maasai community we work with to the White Mountain Movement.

The mission of this movement is simple: to bring back the snow on Mount Kilimanjaro. How? By restoring the landscape on and around Kilimanjaro, thereby creating a healthy and sustainable society for all Maasai. By cultivating the land with trees and greenery (based on permaculture principles) and applying holistic grazing for livestock, disrupted weather patterns can be restored, bringing rain and consequently, snow back to Kilimanjaro.

White Mountain Future Search Conference

From February 28 to March 3, 2023, Embassy of the Earth, with significant support from the Planning Group, consisting of various Maasai from Kenya and Tanzania, organized a White Mountain Future Search Conference in Lekirumun, Siha district, Tanzania. Four Maasai from the villages of Orpirikata and Tokoishi participated in this conference, marking the beginning of efforts to involve diverse communities from the Kilonito region (around Kajiado) in the White Mountain Movement. The movement in Kenya currently includes approximately 5000 Maasai from 11 villages in Amboseli, Mara, and Kilonito. The conference was attended by a total of 120 participants, including Maasai from Kenya and Tanzania, representatives from various professional organizations and government officials from both countries.

Mission of the Search Conference

The goal of this Search Conference is to revitalize Maasai culture and collaborate in restoring the Kilimanjaro ecosystem. Revaluating the Maa culture contributes to landscape restoration and improved living conditions for the Maasai. The focus is on cultural restoration, landscape rehabilitation with an emphasis on biodiversity and enhancing living conditions. Collaboration with governments and other stakeholders willing to contribute to this mission is a crucial aspect.

Shared Vision

The outcome of this Search Conference resulted in a shared vision based on four pillars:

  1. Renewed Maa culture, in harmony with religion and education, with fair and equitable distribution of resources (no corruption).

  2. Livestock herders and farmers work together peacefully in a restored, biodiverse landscape with adequate water supply.

  3. Communities enjoy food security and access to medical care.

  4. Improved education allows Maasai access to all levels of society.

Action Plans

Various action plans were devised, with each Maasai community selecting three priorities to work on in the coming period. These plans are monitored by different coordinating councils that assist the Maasai in implementing their initiatives when necessary.

Supporting Orpirikata and Tikoishi Villages: Friends of the Maasai will now first support the villages of Orpirikata and Tikoishi in realizing their plans.

Empowering Maasai Communities with Permaculture Gardens


Friends of the Maasai has established a strong relationship with the residents of the villages of Tikoishi and Orpirikata, located approximately one hour west of Kajiado. Responding to the request of two highly motivated young Maasai women, Faith Supeet and Purity Ntanin Meikan, the organization initiated the construction of two permaculture community gardens in September/October 2022. These gardens serve as vegetable plots for the community members, allowing them to grow vegetables for personal consumption and sale.


Addressing Food Needs During Droughts

During prolonged droughts, when the livestock (when still alive) is often far away in search of water and food, the need for alternative food sources becomes critical alongside traditional meat and milk from the cattle.

Learning Permaculture Techniques

The establishment and maintenance of permaculture gardens involve techniques unfamiliar to many Maasai. To address this, Janice Mutui and Siya Sankale, two experienced Maasai women from Amboseli with extensive knowledge of setting up permaculture gardens in various villages, were sought for assistance. In mid-September 2022, a group of about 15 Maasai from Orpirikata (mostly women, with a few men) joined by six Maasai from Tikoishi, participated in a three-day training conducted by Janice and Siya. The group later expanded to approximately 30 participants.

Implementation and Expansion

With the acquisition of tools, seeds and other necessary supplies, as well as providing food for the training participants, the ground was prepared and the fundamental principles of permaculture were taught. The first seedbeds were established and a month later the same process was repeated in Tikoishi with a group of around 20 people.

Cultivating Drought-Resistant Vegetables

Various vegetables, including kale, spinach (two types), carrots, coriander, beans and managua are grown in the gardens. These vegetables thrive in the Kenyan heat but require adequate water supply. After the initial setup of the gardens, the existing water facilities in both villages were improved and irrigation pipes were laid to ensure water accessibility. While there were some initial challenges such as pests, diseases and water system issues, the community tackled them with the help of Friends of the Maasai and their own ingenuity.

Expanding Knowledge on Permaculture

In December 2022, a delegation of four individuals (two from each village) traveled to Laikipia, approximately 260 km north of Nairobi, to visit Joseph Lentunyoi's permaculture training center. Joseph, with extensive experience in permaculture, further introduced them to the principles of cultivating vegetables in permaculture gardens. Armed with this new knowledge, the communities of Tikoishi and Orpirikata gained a better understanding of how to establish and maintain their gardens.

Current Impact

As of mid-2023, both villages are benefiting from a regular harvest of various vegetables and beans, benefiting approximately 250 residents in each village. The need to purchase vegetables from expensive markets outside the villages has diminished. The residents are enthusiastic about the project's success and now wish to expand the garden in Orpirikata. In Tikoishi, a large vegetable garden has already been established. Additionally, the community plans to create small kitchen gardens next to their houses for personal vegetable consumption. The surplus vegetables from the community gardens are also sold to outsiders, providing much-needed income for the Maasai women.

A Journey Towards Sustainable Livelihoods


For the past three years, areas in Kenya have endured severe droughts, significantly impacting the Maasai community in Kajiado County, which relies heavily on livestock as their traditional means of survival. However, the prolonged droughts have led to the loss of their precious livestock, prompting a desire for change among the Maasai people.

Small steps of change are better than none, and the first steps were taken on a bright beautiful day in February 2023. Visitors from the Netherlands, including Stefan from Friends of the Maasai, Frank Heckman from the Embassy of the Earth, and Janice from the White Mountain Movement, arrived at Orpirikata and Tikoishi villages to engage with the Maasai community. The visitors were warmly welcomed with traditional songs and the blessings of the elders.

During the workshop, community members shared their aspirations for change. The challenges were similar in both villages, revolving around water scarcity, the need for alternative livelihoods, better healthcare and the wise use of natural resources.


Water was a pressing concern, with the community suggesting the implementation of solar panels to pump water, reducing dependency on expensive diesel-powered boreholes. The desire to shift from livestock-dependent livelihoods to agriculture was palpable, as growing their own food would combat food scarcity. Additionally, the Maasai saw the potential for business ventures that could provide education and basic necessities for their children.


Access to proper healthcare was considered vital for overall well-being, and the community recognized the importance of good hygiene once water was readily available. They also expressed a desire to tap into their abundant natural resources to develop local products and improve farming practices.


One obstacle they acknowledged was the lack of knowledge and expertise, particularly in utilizing their natural resources effectively. Education and training were identified as crucial tools for enabling change and fostering sustainable practices.


A unified workshop brought the two villages together, allowing for a combination of their indigenous knowledge. They assessed their strengths, such as their vast lands, rich culture and talented community members. At the same time, they identified areas that needed improvement, including limited access to knowledge, water, health facilities, food supply and markets beyond their community.


Recognizing that change was inevitable, the Maasai community outlined a series of actions to improve their livelihoods while preserving elements of their cherished culture. The creation of manageable livestock practices, embracing permaculture and encouraging women to engage in business were among the proposed solutions. They also aimed to divide their land into paddocks for better resource management, invest in education and establish community-based organizations to facilitate progress.


Certain practices, such as female genital mutilation, excessive livestock keeping, early childhood marriages, child labor, drug abuse and cattle wrestling were deemed necessary to abandon in their journey toward a more sustainable future.


Envisioning this future, the Maasai communities saw improved water and food supply through increased local production, a fully restored ecosystem, better education access and enhanced healthcare facilities.


By embracing change and fostering sustainable practices, the Maasai communities of Tikoishi and Orpirikata strive to build resilient livelihoods that honor their cultural heritage while adapting to new opportunities for growth and prosperity.

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