Empowering Communities Through Conservation
Commitment by: Basecamp Foundation
Commitment Partners: African Encounters, Asilia Africa, Kicheche Camps, Porini Gamewatchers Safaris, Ol Seki Mara Camp, Basecamp Explorer Kenya, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Lennox Foundation, Strømme Foundation, The Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries
In the Maasai language, Maa, ‘naboisho’ means ‘coming together’ — a sentiment echoed through the work of Basecamp Foundation. In 2011, Basecamp Foundation committed to develop and launch the Mara Naboisho Community Conservancy (MNCC), a first of its kind, holistic development and conservation model in Masai Mara, Kenya. This innovative land management project empowers Maasai landowners to manage and conserve the land for long-term wildlife and ecosystem protection, as well as promotes equitable sharing of resources and local economic development.
Bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti National Park, the conservancy is home to a wealth of ecosystems and habitats. The land is critically important to supporting the Maasai people, ensuring the vitality of wildlife, and drawing visitors from across the globe. In recent years, reports of increased drought, water scarcity, land degradation, and declining wildlife have threatened this area. Knowing this, Basecamp Foundation gathered a multifaceted team consisting of local Koyaki community leaders, ecologists, hydrologists, conservationists, and other experts to assess the land, create a framework for the conservation, and develop a plan of action.
The Naboisho Conservancy model now encompasses more than 200,000 acres of territory and has been replicated many times across the region.
Naboisho is home to a wealth of animals that attract visitors from across the globe, including the annual migration of nearly one million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras. With reports of declining wildlife and the constant threat of poaching, wildlife protection has become increasingly important in the region.
Several projects have been put in place to combat these issues, including the Big Cat Project, which aims to safeguard lions, cheetahs, and leopards through tracking, research, conflict mitigation, and community education. Due to conservation efforts and the presence of trained rangers, elephants and lions are returning to the protected area.
The Maasai Landowners
When it comes to revenue, employment, and payment for wildlife tourism in East Africa, the Maasai — a pastoral people of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem — have not typically benefited. With many Maasai facing extreme poverty and an overt lack of inclusion in local tourism operations, approximately 500 Maasai in the local communities requested that Basecamp Foundation Kenya facilitate the formation of the conservancy, ultimately putting approximately 50,000 acres of land under protection.
Together, the group of Maasai and tourism operators agreed to a 15-year lease, where the land owned by the Maasai would be leased to the tourism operators — providing a steady source of wealth to the Maasai landowners while giving rise to an equitable partnership.
The Ecotourism Industry
Basecamp Foundation pledged to partner with Naboisho to support and develop strategies for the long-term financial security of the Maasai community, including their involvement in tourism. Green tourism development not only protects the land and wildlife, but also delivers a sustainable income to the landowners, creates hundreds of jobs, and assists with other community-enhancing projects. Basecamp Foundation’s Koiyaki Guiding School (KGS) is one such example — it equips young Maasai men and women with the skills necessary to pursue employment as safari guides. Through this experience, the Maasai incorporate their years of knowledge interacting with nature to offer authentic, conservation-centric safari experiences to guests.