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Tourism Helps Communities

Travel philanthropy on course to benefit Maasai people in Tanzania

Apolinari Tairo, eTN  Aug 27, 2010

TANZANIA (eTN) - Clad in their traditional attire, the Maasai women are found selling beads and locally-made jewelry and bracelets to the tourists camping and visiting in their location within the Loliondo area in northern Tanzania.
Beads, necklaces, and scepters made in different colors, along with bracelets, are the most attractive locally-made jewelry by the Maasai women folks and which most tourists visiting the area want to buy.

The Maasai are the most interesting people in Tanzania because of their lifestyle, which until today has remained intact and unchanged for a number of centuries.

Most of the Maasai people live in Arusha region of northern Tanzania, the area which is the tourist hub in East Africa. But the Maasai beliefs have confined them to cattle-keeping, with less interest in modern lifestyles and education.
Travel philanthropy is currently changing the Maasai life with more benefits from tourist companies, which are operating in the Loliondo area, where a section of companies are running hunting and photographic safaris.

The Enyuata Women's Collaborative is a living example of Maasai women who are going to benefit from travel philanthropy initiatives. From just ten women, the Enyuata Women Group now has more than 100 members who are aiming for the stars. Enyuata Women's Collaborative members are looking to benefit from tourists who pass through their village, Sukenya, heading to Loliondo-based tourist camps.

The Maasai women members of Enyuata Collaborative have planned to start a community health initiative in their area soon. Enyuata chairwoman, Nairotiai Parmeres, has been happy to see many more tourists calling at their road-side stalls packed with traditional artifacts.

Unlike most communities in Tanzania, the Maasai people in the Loliondo area live in a harsh environment, sharing the semi-arid land with wild animals, where water, better roads, health services, and schools have been lacking for decades.

Only four-wheel tourist and heavy-duty vehicles can enter the Loliondo Maasai area on ground. Most tourists prefer to fly there with light aircraft.

Chairman of the Ngorongoro District Council Mr. Simon Soinda said more tourist companies are greatly needed to help the Maasai people, saying this would make them change from their traditional lifestyle to a modern life.

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) from across the world are being accused of reaping donor money in the name of Maasai communities, with no or little help in changing their lifestyles through provision of modern education and other social services.

Those NGOs have been operating within the Maasai communities with little or no changes observed to alleviate the Maasai communities from ignorance and abject poverty.

Over 65,000 animals out of 380,000 cattle in the Ngorongoro District died last year due to a dry spell, which hit a big part of northern Tanzania, said Elias Wawa Lali, the Ngorongoro District Commissioner. This situation caused more sufferings to the Maasai communities whose entire life depends on cattle.
Cattle are a symbol of wealth for the Maasai communities, whose modern education and agriculture are a far dream to reach.

Travel philanthropy in the Sukenya village and the rest of the Loliondo area is going to change the current life situation the Maasai people are living with today. Tourists visiting the area have contributed, through their host companies, significant portions of their spending. It is anticipated that Maasai communities will benefit through direct financing from tourists visiting the Sukenya village in the forms of provisions of water; construction of classrooms and teachers' houses; and a subsidy for teachers' salaries.

Despite travel philanthropic support to the Maasai for education, a big challenge remains on how to encourage Maasai parents to relieve their children from caring for the cattle on dry grass pastures in favor of school and learning.

Tanzania Conservation Limited (TCL) has committed a travel philanthropic contribution from 700 tourists who are expected to visit the Sukenya village before the end of this year. If successful, the Maasai communities in the village will reap not less than US$14,000 that will go to the village directly.

Each tourist camping with Tanzania Conservation Limited will be encouraged to contribute US$20 to the village. The company, TCL, is currently financing construction of teachers' modern houses at a cost of US$30,000.

Enaboishu Warriors Group, that is made up of 15 Maasai youths, is the other beneficiary of travel philanthropy from TCL. The group members entertain tourists during the evenings, and each member gets a token of US$10 just after a few minutes of traditional performance.

A Maasai story-teller is the other beneficiary of travel philanthropy from TCL. She gets a token of US$30 after telling her local Maasai cultural story about wildlife, cattle, or a lifestyle.

Land conflicts between the Maasai communities and wildlife institutions, including the government-controlled wildlife areas, remains at the top of the problems facing the Maasai as they strive to maintain their old cultures, taking cattle as a symbol of wealth and polygamy as a pride.

European-based NGOs are said to fueling the conflict between the Maasai communities who are herding their livestock in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the attractive Ngorongoro Crater is located.

The fight between the Maasai versus Tanzania government over the land ownership inside Ngorongoro Conservation Area has attracted the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to direct the Maasai people to look for better and more productive methods in keeping their livestock and to avoid environmental hazards within the rich wildlife Ngorongoro, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site.

Travel philanthropy on course to benefit Maasai people in Tanzania
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