Before recent times, few in the Maasai community profited from the tourism industry. We would wait to sing in our villages or sell beads and trinkets to tourists, but we began to realise that very little of the profits were coming to the community.
Some of us began fighting our way for inclusion into Kenya’s tourism sector as Field Guides in the 2000s. In these early days, it was very difficult to find work. We would wait long periods of time, only to be hired as subcontractors, driving clients from airstrips or rescuing other tourist vehicles. The reality is that we still face these challenges.
Our association began as a response to the realisation that we should be included in the industry that profits from our lands and our co-existence with wildlife. The efforts of over one hundred local Maasai workers, men and women, formed the MGA. The MGA is supported by our communal culture and our desire to share economic opportunity with all people who call the Mara home.
We began organising the MGA in 2012, and confronted great roadblocks mobilising the resources to register as an association with the Kenyan government. Our community has been left out of many opportunities in Kenya and so we worked very hard to seek legal education and advice. Our members were brave and saw that if we joined together we might be able to create something very powerful.
The path was not easy, but we achieved our first victory in 2015, registration as an official labor organisation recognised by the Kenyan government. We began organising our leadership structure, holding meetings, and collecting dues. At the time of registration, we were a little over 40 dues-paying members and we have since doubled. We collaborated with one of our partners, Maasai Education, Research, and Conservation Institute, (link to MERC page) to help us organise a Mara Guides Training Program so that we could build the skills of our members through a certification program.
In July 2016, we launched the MGA at a public community ceremony attended by several hundred Maasai people, representatives of the tourism industry, elected officials, and MGA members. During the ceremony, we graduated twelve newly certified guides from the Mara Guides Training Program. Around the time of our launch, we were 89 dues-paying members and we continue to expand.
There is a dawn in Maasailand, we know that we must shape a healthy and sustainable future for our sons and daughters and we believe that securing fair economic opportunity is essential to this future.