Patron: Meitamei Olol Dapash
Meitamei Olol Dapash is Patron of the Mara Guides Association, Executive Director of the Maasai Education, Research and Conservation Institute (MERC), and an adjunct professor at Prescott College in Arizona, U.S.. Meitamei was taken to school at a young age from his home community in Narok District and has gone on to use his subsequent education to advocate for the Maasai community, to stopping the illegal appropriation of Maasai people’s traditional lands for commercial development, agriculture, mining, irresponsible tourism operations, indiscriminate clearing of forests, and other forms of development that are destructive to Maasai culture, African wildlife and the delicate habitat they share. Having graduated from Edgerton University, in 1987 at the age of 24, he founded MERC to coordinate, resource, and represent grassroots efforts of 150 Maasai organizations and community leaders. In response to a climate of political repression in Kenya, in the early 1990s Meitamei traveled to the U.S. to find international allies for the Maasai community, and established MERC U.S. in Washington State in 1994. As the Executive Director of MERC’s international office based in Washington D.C. for many years, Meitamei represented the interests of Maasai people in the Species Survival Network, Cultural Survival, and at international forums including the CITIES convention (International Trade In Endangered Species). He has taught seminars at Harvard, consulted with the World Bank, spoken on the BBC and Voice of America, and has articles published in numerous publications including Humane Society Magazine, Cultural Survival Quarterly, and the African Wildlife Institute. He has been a Synergos fellow since 2011. Meitamei ran for Parliament in the Narok North district of Kenya in 2007 and 2013. He has led the fight for the return of Mau Narok, a 30,000 acre region of traditional Maasai homeland, since 2008. As MGA Patron he promotes the rights of Maasai workers in the tourism industry and supports the expansion of Maasai leadership in the Mara.
Chairman: John Ole Tira
John Ole Tira serves as chairman of the MGA and comes from the Mara, Oloolaimutia area. Ole Tira has worked as a free-lance tour guide since 2009. He began his career as an educator trained in Early Childhood Development by the Ministry of Education. He went on to work for Friends of Conservation (FOC), an international conservation-based charity, where he operated as a Habitat Protection Officer, Greater Mara Region Scouts Coordinator, and Community Conservation Center Manager for two years. He was part of FOC’s Forestry Unit where he took part in conservation efforts, including the establishment and management of a tree nursery and woodlots; seed collection and storage; and engaged visitors in ecotourism trips. Ole Tira attended DICE University where he was trained in wildlife surveying and GIS as well as the Maasai Technical Training Institute, where he was trained in Popular Participatory Evaluation Process (PEP), including modules on community mobilization and empowerment tools, data analysis, and project design. He worked as Kipini Conservancy Manager and Scouts Coordinator for two years in the coastal region of Kenya. Ole Tira represents the Mara Guides Association as a committed conservationist and advocate for economic justice to the Maasai community.
Secretary: Jackson Patita Rakwa
Jackson Patita Rakwa serves as Secretary of the Mara Guides Association. He is a form four graduate from Narok Boys High School in 1999, where he first began serving in leadership positions. After graduating, Rakwa worked as an educator, but wished to build a career where he could better support himself and turned to tourism. Rakwa is a member of the Kenya Professional Safari Guide Association and a Bronze Level holder. He has worked as a guide in the Maasai Mara for over 10 years and currently is the head guide at Entim and Ilkeliani. As head guide, Rakwa organizes all transport, hires other guides, and insures that guides he hires are equipped to work with clients from across the globe. Rakwa has worked closely with photographers and travelled to the U.S. where he assisted in launching and presenting a book of published photography taken by one of his clients. Rakwa was appointed MGA secretary by other members of the association and also serves as secretary for landowners at Mara Naboisho Conservancy. He was among the pioneers of Maasai community leadership at Naboisho and has worked to negotiate agreements between the local community and tourism partners. Rakwa is committed to promoting educational opportunities to the people of the Mara and to giving Maasai guides a voice in decision-making about the management and protection of the Maasai Mara.
Treasurer: Peter Orongai Ole Narok
Peter Orongai Ole Narok serves as treasurer of the Mara Guides Association. Ole Narok was born in the Maasai Mara and continues to live in his homeland of Sekenani, only four kilometers from the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. He has worked as a freelance guide since 2004. In addition to operating as treasurer of the MGA, Ole Narok has served as Chairman of the Maasai Cultural Village Association since 2009, which is comprised of 27 villages and 80 families. The Maasai Cultural Village Association is a community platform that works closely with tour companies to stop corruption in the tourism industry and insure that Maasai families are fairly compensated for sharing their homes and culture with visitors. His own village is a registered cultural village where he invites guests to witness Maasai culture. Additionally, since 2007, Ole Narok has served as treasurer for projects of Action Africa, a U.S.-based NGO that operates in Kenya. He is the patron of Ole Kene Primary School, which serves of 280 children in his area. Ole Narok is truly educated in the traditional Maasai justice system and is a well-respected community leader who helps mediate public issues. He was among the graduates of Prescott College’s Maasai Field Guide Training Program in 2016. He is an advocate for Maasai rights, educational opportunities, and the recognition of traditional cultural knowledge.