Tanzania Indigenous Maasai Engage in Responsible Tourism

Tanzania Indigenous Maasai Engage in Responsible Tourism

Indigenous Maasai in northern Tanzania are now offering tourists something beyond traditional food.

They are currently busy designing leather ornaments and vintage items that will make tourists’ trips memorable.

“Our dear tourists who visit [the] northern tourism circuit will [be] surprise[s] to buy unique leather ornaments designed by indigenous to make their travel unforgettable,” said Esther Stephano, the chairperson of the newly-formed Maasai leather producers group courtesy of a non-profit organization.

Oikos East Africa, through a European-Union funded project, has embarked on empowering pastoralists by processing livestock skins in a quest to create a commercial leather industry hub in the livestock-rich northern Tanzania region.

The idea is to use livestock hides, a by-product which is often thrown away from within the villages forming the Enduimet Wildlife Management area in the Longido district, Arusha region, to make accessories and footwear for tourists.

Oikos East Africa’s leather expert, Mr. Gabriel Mollel, said a group of 25 beneficiaries comprised of 18 women and 7 men have been trained on how to use organic ingredients including papaya, lime, and mimosa, to do rawhide tanning.

“We have taught them on using vegetables, particularly papaya, raw skin tanning, leather preparation for use, beadwork, and production of handmade leather-finished products in various designs,” Mr. Mollel explained, adding that the beneficiaries are now capable to make high-quality leather products after a 14-day training stint at the Mkuru Natural Leather Training Centre.

“To empower pastoralists to harness the leather industry is a game changer,” he said, adding, “These kinds of initiatives are critical for the livestock keepers as it offers diversification of income-generation activities.”

The beneficiaries say they were given training in both theory and practical sessions to equip them with the knowledge and then the skills to turn a raw skin into leather, before using that leather to produce bags, belts, and key holders, among others.

“If I had tools I could just start producing belts and other stuffs. I’ve fallen in love mostly with [the] leather processing lesson. I never knew before that you could process leather by using a small bucket,” said Kilembu Nguchicha, a pastoralist from TingaTinga village.

Christina Lomayani from Irkaswa Village said she used to witness Tanzania pastoralists throwing away goats, sheep, and cows’ raw hides because of a lack of market, but with the know-how she vowed to share the knowledge with others to ensure the skins are of an added value.

Oikos East Africa’s Director, Ms. Mary Birdi, said that she hopes that the leather activity will create new decent employment so there will be more income for the pastoralist communities of Enduimet WMA.

According to Ms. Birdi, the training is part of the 3-year European Union (EU) funded CONNEKT (Conserving Neighboring Ecosystems in Kenya and Tanzania) project, which strives to promote the sustainable use of natural resources as tools to fight against poverty and boost socio-economic development.

“The overall objective of the CONNEKT Project is to enhance sustainable livelihoods for people who live along animal migratory routes,” she concluded.

It is understood that this project is executed by Oikos East Africa, a Tanzania NGO based in Arusha operating since 1999 to promote the protection of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources as tools to fight against poverty and boost socio-economic development.

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