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Maasai Mara Cultural Villages Tourism Association Thanks Giving Ceremony

Published on behalf of the Maasai Mara Cultural Villages Tourism Association, Kenya

On Tuesday 10th April 2012 at Kolong Cultural Village, Talek, Masai Mara, the Maasai Mara Cultural Villages Tourism Association held a ceremonial thanks giving day to celebrate the growing success of the association and to thank its many supporters.

In 2008, the twenty seven (27) cultural villages on the Narok side of the Mara came together to form a tourism association with the express aim of putting to an end the more than thirty years exploitation of the villages by Kenya’s driver guides, who took 96% of the revenue collected from tourists when they visited a cultural manyatta to learn about Maasai culture. The association was founded by responsible tourism specialist Dr Cheryl Mvula “Naretisho” of Tribal Voice Communications with support from the UK Travel Foundation, following the success of their pilot initiative in the Mara Triangle.

It is now four years since the association was set up and despite facing a myriad of challenges we are still as determined to succeed as ever. Driver guide intimidation of villagers and a lack of active support from the majority of tour operators and lodges in the Mara saw our association membership reduce in its first 6 months from the initial 27 villages to 13 villages.  These 13 villages have stood firm ever since and have grown even stronger over the years that have ensued, particularly due to the tremendous support we have received from those responsible tour operators and lodges that do business with us in a fair way through the cashless ticketing system, along with KATO, KWS and our other special partners.

We can now confidently say that the association has stood the test of time, we are not going away, and the future therefore looks brighter for the Maasai people living alongside wildlife in the Masai Mara game reserve. This is all thanks to our partners and supporters who have stood with us and given overwhelming support to our association.

As we celebrate four years of success we also wish to celebrate with, and give thanks to, our key partners and supporters, who have been our main source of strength over this time. Our culture demands that we acknowledge our friends publicly and adorn and thank them before everybody!

Our thanks giving ceremony was held on April 12th at Kolong Village and was such a great success that we intend to make it an annual event and introduce more cultural activities and displays, and also welcome tourists to attend. Over 300 people attended the ceremony from villagers and association officials to lodge managers, special dignitaries and our key supporters and partners.

In attendance were special guests:

  • The Operations Director of Pollmans Safaris, Abdi Hilal, and his wife
  • The CEO of Ecotourism Kenya, Kahindi Lekalhaile (also representing KATO)
  • The Chief Warden of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Michael Koikai
  • The Area Chief
  • The District Commissioner
  • Dr Cheryl Mvula of Tribal Voice Communications
  • Johnson Ole Sipitiek, Program Officer for African Conservation Centre 
  • Manager of Mara Intrepids Lodge

The day started with the slaughtering of 2 cows and goats and everyone feasted well on roasted meat and traditional soup on arrival, before undertaking a cultural tour of Kolong village. Cultural visits to all villages in the association were free on this special thanks giving day, so we hosted many tourists and lodges in the manyattas. We then held a cultural competition between the villages which was a very spectacular and colourful event for our guests to witness and a source of great enjoyment for the Maasai that participated – runga throwing, tug of war between ladies and men, and singing and dancing competitions. The lodge managers present judged the winners and awarded them prizes.

Thereafter followed motivating and honest speeches from our special guests and association officials. The key messages in these was that the villages needed to stay united, that those villages that had left the association needed to be helped to return, that more lodges in the area needed to embrace and support the cashless ticketing system as it was proven to work and be effective in bringing about development in the villages, that our key supporters would lobby Nairobi and UK–based tour operators to step up their support of the initiative, and most importantly, that everyone present was united in their ambition to see this initiative prosper and grow. Many of the villages that had left the association requested during the day that they be accepted back, and all lodges in attendance expressed their desire to now embrace the cashless ticketing system, marking a major turning point in the evolution of this responsible tourism initiative.

During the final part of the ceremony we honoured our key supporters and partners in the traditional Maasai way, by praising them in public and adorning them with intricate beadwork that had been specially crafted by the ladies in the association for this important occasion. Special thanks went to Abdi Hilal of Pollmans Safaris for his staunch support of the cashless ticketing system in the face of much adversity from his own company’s drivers. Of the 3 million KS earnt by the association last year for cultural tours in the village, 2.5 million of this came from Pollmans guests. Other operators thanked for their tremendous support were Mara Intrepids Lodge and Vintage Safaris. The Ecotourism Kenya CEO picked up KATO’S beadwork on their behalf, Fred Kaigua the CEO of KATO being instrumental in the success of our initiative, along with Johnson Ole Sipitiek of ACC. Finally, Dr Cheryl Mvula of Tribal Voice Communications was awarded a special gift as the ‘mother’ of our association.

For more information on the Maasai Mara Cultural Villages Tourism Association or how to support the cashless ticketing system for manyatta tours contact Dr Cheryl Mvula of Tribal Voice Communications on Cheryl@tribal-voice.co.uk


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Work with Kenya’s Maasai shortlisted for Responsible Tourism Award

Tribal Voice Communications’ work in Kenya towards helping Maasai communities develop an ethical and sustainable source of income from tourism has been shortlisted in The Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards 2009, organised by responsibletravel.com.

Launched in 2004, the Awards aim to celebrate those individuals, companies and organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and are providing a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation.

It is great that TVC’s work in Kenya with the Maasai tribe has been recognised in these awards in the ‘Best for Poverty Reduction’ category. We have been working in Kenya’s Masai Mara since 2006 overturning decades of exploitation of the Maasai cultural villages there by Kenya’s driver guides. Many of these villages are now benefiting from tourism for the very  first time since setting up their tourism enterprises over 30 years ago and as a result are now lifting themselves out of the poverty trap through their newly acquired tourism income. They have to date built their own schools, rain water harvesting and sanitation systems.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of 13 prolific judges at a recent judging day held at The Royal Geographical Society, London. Dr Harold Goodwin, Chair of the Judges and Professor of Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds MetropolitanUniversity said :

 “Working our way through this year’s long lists, we were impressed by the willingness of so many organisations to take responsibility and to do what they can to help make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. This year over 140 submitted detailed responses to our questionnaire and we received hundreds of references. Despite the economic difficulties being faced by the travel and tourism industry, responsible tourism continues to move ahead and I’m continually impressed as more is achieved by more people. As judges we are all very aware of the great work that is being done by so many and our decisions are often very difficult and sometimes long debated”.

To learm more about TVC’s work with the Maasai in Kenya click here. For further information on the Awards, which will be announced on November 11th 2009 at World Travel Market in London, view here.