All the women are from Amboseli in southern Kenya, where wildlife communities depend heavily on natural resources for shelter, food, water and fuel. The need to generate income for families increases pressure on nature and wildlife. Agriculture and animal husbandry encroach on the area of wild animals. Crops are sold to generate income or to serve as food. Former wild animal pastures are used to grow crops and raise livestock, leaving less room for wildlife. Habitat loss and migration routes are increasing conflict between humans and wildlife at an alarming rate. This includes injuries and deaths among both humans and wild animals.
Vocational training through Jenga Mama
Women are at the fore in dealing with nature as they provide for their families, yet are paradoxically marginalized when it comes to social and economic independence, leadership of their lives, and the natural resources they contend with. The Jenga Mama Education Project (Swahili “Women Empowerment”) provides a three-year apprenticeship, in which occupations such as hairdressing, tailoring and catering have proven to be a popular choice among applicants.
“The project allows women, for the first time, to become financially independent and generate sustainable income for their families and communities,” said James Ezech, IWF Regional Director for East Africa. “As successful small business owners, they will become less dependent on the wildlife and habitats of Amboseli communities. Instead, they will become advocates for wildlife protection and safety.”
Families currently rely heavily on natural resources for firewood, water, home building materials, and furniture. With higher incomes, they will be able to use other sources, for example using cooking gas instead of firewood from the area. The activities of these families – gathering firewood, herding livestock and farming – increase the potential for conflict between humans and wildlife, as wild animals spend more than 70 percent of their time in areas where the community also lives. These conflicts will be reduced by providing women with alternative livelihoods that reduce their interaction with nature and wildlife.
Kindness to animals begins with people
After their training, the women will be assisted in finding business partners, renting buildings, purchasing machinery or equipment, and marketing their small business. The German Margaret Breuer Foundation, which will take care of the full funding for the next three years, is an essential part of the project concept.
“We are funding the project to provide young women with equal employment and participation,” said Peter H. Dehnen, Executive Director of the Margaret Brewer Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that sustainably improve human and animal welfare is fundamental to project design and financing.” “The Jenga Mama project gives 60 young women and girls in Kenya the opportunity to take charge of their own lives and financial independence. Only by improving livelihoods will it be possible to permanently mitigate potential conflicts between humans and wildlife. Because animal welfare starts with people.”
Alternative sources of income protect wildlife
By generating alternative income sources that develop stability and leadership, the women in the Jenga Mama Project help people in their communities coexist peacefully with wildlife. Jenga Mama is part of a large, long-term initiative by hand others International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW): Room to Roam, which aims to reconnect fragmented habitats so that wild animals can once again migrate along their ancient routes.
Central to this is the involvement of local communities and the creation of alternative sources of income to enable the peaceful coexistence of humans and wildlife. At the same time, long-term efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect regional biodiversity are also supported.
Since 2013, IFAW has partnered with OOGR Maasai Community (Olgulului Ololarashi Group Ranch) around Amboseli National Park to secure key migration routes for elephants and other wildlife, thus creating income opportunities for the local community. The Jenga Mama project is part of that.
Text and Image: IFAW