From 24 to 27 April 2019, Maasai leaders and representatives of local authorities, wildlife, tourism and conservation organizations came together at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya for deep discussions about the degraded landscape, the climate crisis, increasing droughts and their common future.
The 120 participants of the White Mountain Future Search Conference, designed and facilitated by the Dutch foundation Embassy of the Earth, jointly produced a strong shared vision and set strategies for the regeneration of the Maasai habitat around Mt. Kilimanjaro by 2029. The Maasai name for the majestic mountain is Oldonya Oibor, meaning White Mountain.
While the wind was blowing the dust through the tents set up for the meeting in the dry landscape, the participants set the stage and agenda for unprecedented collaboration for the next 10 years. In the light of the evening campfire, we learned from an elder and traditional Maasai leader from Tanzania how the Maasai can read the weather through stars and cloud patterns.
These activities resulted in a shared vision of the future including four interrelated themes: vibrant and cohesive Maasai cultural communities with a healthy economy, health care and education; balance and coexistence between the Maasai, their cattle and the wildlife; collective land ownership supported by transparent and responsible leadership and Maasai control over the White Mountain initiative; and the regeneration of vegetation in the landscape, such as grass and trees.
All of these themes have been elaborated in strategies in which there is an important role for local Maasai leaders to achieve unity and for elders to transfer the traditional knowledge to young people. Other strategies include improving the quality of livestock, beekeeping, clean water and sanitation, growing traditional natural herbs, formal and informal education, the creation of rotational grazing zones to allow vegetation to recover, creating awareness about the importance of restoring vegetation, applying permaculture, planting trees, practice agroforestry and monitor the effects of better management on the recovery of the landscape.
Upon departure, the participants were full of energy: ‘We put it on the ground and nothing can stop it’, said one of the Elders. Coordinating Councils have been elected for the states of Narok and Kajiado, which have already met and begun to plan and coordinate the necessary actions at both village and landscape level.
The White Mountain vision statement and strategic directives include and build on already existing initiatives, such as the The Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, the Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism, the Community Based Organization Tepesua, Friends of the Maasai, and the Nkoilaile Community Development Organisation, which works with the Olosinko concept developed in close cooperation with Dutch NGO Osotua. The White Mountain also seeks collaborations with other, related initiatives, such as from WWF, Commonland, Justdiggit, the East African Wild Life Society and others.
A small Maasai delegation from Tanzania is already working to plan a Future Search Conference on the Maasai habitat on their side of Mt. Kilimanjaro later this year. They see a historic opportunity to unite all Maasai behind this critical mission and epic journey to regenerate the White Mountain landscape.
Read the full White Mountain Future Search Conference Report here.