Our appointment with Stacy had been fixed for 09:30 hrs. We arrived few minutes past the agreed time at the gates of Karen Connections the friendly guards directed us to the offices of African Conservation Trust, or ACT as everyone around referred to it. We were warmly ushered into a well organised single room office. He is so humble and we wouldn’t expect him to be the guy we were to meet, but yes he is Stacy.
In this well-lit office was a gentleman who was calmly sitting in a corner and a bubbly lady, the two introduced themselves as Peter and Zipporah respectively. Before we could even sit down Stacy was already introducing us to the world of trees, trees and more trees.
One of the projects being undertaken by ACTS and particularly the one supported by global giving is based in Magadi. Magadi happens to be one of the driest regions in the country. With the aid of video and pictures, Stacy took us through what they are doing to keep this region habitable and productive; his message was quite simple and plain “plant trees”.
Stacey is so passionate about trees that we sought to know if he grew up planting trees, to our amazement, he is an American whose first love was working with children in the slums of Kenya, something he is still actively involved in and enjoys doing. Stacey was introduced to Mr. Adam Tuller by one of the Trustees of ACT. That's how his love for trees began. By the number of times Stacy mentions Mr Tuller and how much support they are receiving from him it’s quite evident how pivotal Tuller is to the organisation and his passion for environmental matters. Even though he is quite talkative it’s very easy to notice how a team player Stacy is as he keeps on referring some questions to Zipporah and Peter to elaborate on issues on the ground as he actually refers to him as “The Man on the ground”.
Stacy is so proud of having the local community on board of the project; he sees this as the first achievement of meeting their goal which is self sustainability. From the video clips its easy to see how everyone from school children to old women are involved in the conservation of the environment and this is Keeps a smile on Stacey’s face as this makes him yearn for the next day in Africa as a conservatist.
Zipporah is one happy lady. Immediately we got into ACT’s office she gladly offered a cup of coffee and for sure it was timely as it was quite a cold, chilly morning not to mention the location of the office which is basically located in a mini forest and so when they talk about trees we actually understand what they mean.
With an elderly beautiful grin on her face Zipporah does not hide her excitement of being associated with this organisation. Having lived long enough to understand exactly how the Maasai’s men have for a long time looked down upon their women folks, she feels very proud of how this has come of age as it’s so apparent with the current empowerment going on, women in the communities where ACT has had an opportunity to interact with are taking the front in the conservation of mother nature which has a polite way of paying back by giving them the conducive environment to do farming.
This initiative has greatly reduced the rate of malnutrition and dependent of handouts. Excess gotten from the farms is sold hence generating income for the families involved in the project. Zipporah's wish is they could have more support as this will greatly increase their presence and activities not just in Magadi but in Kenya and Africa as a whole. Zipporah is all smiles as he teases Peter on how the Maasai women can now go to work and girl go to school and compete with boys in all aspects of life.
As we leave ACT we promise ourselves to visit Magadi and share the experiences with the rest of the World.
PETER (Masai elder and beneficiary)
Peter - whom Stacy kept on referring to as the Guy on the ground - is a Maasai elder. Because of his position in the community - a community that respects hierarchy - he is a very important person for the project. Peter is composed and calm, from the looks you wouldn’t expect him to speak much but when starts talking about of the project you realise how much knowledgeable he is of the trees especially those that are suitable for the environment.
Peter is very proud when he sees members of his community embrace the initiative with so much enthusiasm especially when his fellow men in community allow women to go out and work, since time immemorial it has been a taboo amongst the Maasai community for women to go out and work as their place belonged to the Kitchen and child bearing. But since the inception of the project more and more Men are allowing their wives and daughters to go out and work for a living. Peter appreciates that when women are paid, they easily transform their earnings into food and savings for the family. On the contrary, Peter notes that men easily end up spending the same in non-beneficial ways, like drinking.
With trees and the involvement of women in the community is, he is aware that the future is bright. Self-sustainability of the community is not elusive as it has been widely conceived in the past. Peter says, "The Maasai goats and cows will have grass to graze on. There will be enough firewood for cooking and even selling."
The most important thing being that the environment will be conserved and food will be produced in plenty due to the nitrogen fixing plants.
Being an elder, Peter is happy that he is imparting knowledge to the future leaders of his community. Through the school outreach program - which is a sure way of leaving a lasting impact and a good legacy - Peter sustains the drive to get involved in the project rather than go for a paying job elsewhere.
"Make sure you visit us and see what we are talking about!" This is Peters parting shot.
[Context: Masai culture forbids women from working or even attending village meetings. ACT has challenged this tradition head-on by putting women to work in the reforestation efforts. Adam Tuller mentioned that prior efforts were doomed when only men were involved.]Attachments: