A group of women from Mkonoo village approached the Terrawatu office in Arusha in 2003 to ask for our support in rekindling a group they had started a while back. Another NGO had come to the village to launch a women’s empowerment project but left after the funding ran out. The women who had joined together recognized the benefit of organizing as a group and felt like they were just getting started in improving their lives.
After a series of discussions in the village, Terrawatu facilitated the development of a new tree planting network in Mkonoo based on the success of our other networks in surrounding communities. The project progressed quickly, given that the women were already organized and eager to make changes.
Over the years, thousands of seedlings have been cultivated in Mkonoo, for food, medicine and to provide shade. These trees have been replanted on private and public lands and surplus plants are sold by the women to provide them with income. Terrawatu has facilitated a rain harvested system in the village and continues to help maintain their access to the generally unreliable municipal water supply.
Visitors traveling with People-to-People Safaris always enjoy a traditional Maasai experience in Mkonoo that is hosted by this women’s network. The women display their hand-crafted jewelry and proceeds from the sale of these products have become an important source of income for the women. They now have enough money to send their children to school and to supplement the food supply for their families.
Several years ago, nine of the women from the network began training in a new small business development project initiated by Terrawatu. The Maasai Leather Bag Project creates leather handbags by using traditional Maasai beading to embellish the traditional milk satchel design. These gorgeous bags are made with locally-sourced cow leather and are completely crafted by hand. The bags are currently available at a shop in the village of Coconut Grove in Miami, Florida and in our on-line marketplace. Plans are in motion to expand production of these Maasai Leather Bags as the income generated from this business will improve livelihoods in Mkonoo and empower the women towards even greater heights.