Dawsonites do good in Tanzania

This spring, three Dawsonites exchanged the slush-filled gravel roads of Dawson City for the rutted, red silt tracks of central Tanzania. Apart from the unpaved state of the roads, the places have little in common.

This spring, three Dawsonites exchanged the slush-filled gravel roads of Dawson City for the rutted, red silt tracks of central Tanzania.

Apart from the unpaved state of the roads, the places have little in common. Here, young Maasai warriors rip down the tracks on motorbikes, usually three to a bike, while livestock and people scatter out of their way.

Their long braids and red robes fly out behind them. They hold their staffs in one hand and brandish their heavy wooden clubs in a friendly wave with the other. They smile broadly as they skim past, calling out greetings until they round the next corner.

Slower commuters are on foot, or leading donkeys or pushing over-laden bikes up the hill. The roar of engines is the warning bell to scramble out of the way.

That doesn’t seem unreasonable, though. The road is so rutted there is usually only one narrow track for everyone to safely follow, so people step aside, allowing safe passage rather than asserting the right to share the road.

Maureen Abbott, Jim Taggart and I came to Tanzania as a result of meeting a Maasai man, Emmanuel Ole Kileli, at Dawson’s short film festival three years ago. He told us about the not-for-profit organization he and a group of young Maasai had formed called Ereto Maasai Youth (EMAYO). We were impressed by their desire to become actively involved in the development of their own community and volunteered to help.

Yukon links with EMAYO were already well-established. We volunteered through the Kesho Trust, a conservation and development organization founded and directed by Canadians from the Yukon and B.C. It works by creating partnerships with community-based organizations, like EMAYO, to help achieve long-term sustainability.

This supportive relationship started in 2005, when both organizations were new. Their shared commitment to conservation and community development made it logical to work together.

Emmanuel’s band of Maasai are now permanently based in a settlement area called Elerai, an hour’s walk from the village of Kibirashi. Traditionally, the Maasai were pastoralists, moving with their herds of cattle over the savannah lands of Kenya and Tanzania. But the need for farmland meant that after the Maasai moved on to new pastures, they returned to find their land settled by farmers, surrounded by thorn bushes to repel the cattle.

Now the Maasai find themselves tied to one location, having to bring in water and food instead of migrating to find it. The culture and traditions which have supported them for centuries must now adapt to new circumstances. It is a hard process for the Maasai, who have a strong culture that still directs most of their daily lives.

It is a unique experience to see this community in transition. The motorbikes are the most obvious new addition. The small solar panels propped outside the mud huts are needed to power the cellphones that most warriors wear clipped to their belts, next to their machetes.

But apart from these notable exceptions, there are few changes to the Maasai lifestyle so far. They know they need to start planning, so change can happen in a controlled way, and to be able to hold on to the important parts of their culture while joining the modern world.

A community advisory group has been created to work with EMAYO in setting goals for development, and there are quite a few items on the list. High up is education.

The elementary school in Elerai attracts students from up to six kilometres away. Small figures, dressed carefully in their green and blue uniforms, can be seen wending their way along bush trails from as early as 6:30 a.m. Most carry a small reusable container of water – their daily contribution to the school’s lunch.

Eager, but shy at the same time, they blurt out a greeting when they see us. Then, surprised by their own boldness, they hide their faces and giggle.

Having to set off so early means that many will not have had breakfast. That is why, last year, EMAYO started the school lunch program, which provides a nutritious meal for all the students each day.

The principal, Johnson Mwilimela, says that attendance is up 10 per cent. Not surprisingly, the students who are not distracted by hunger perform better in class. All the teachers report an improvement in grades.

To support the program, the community contributes maize, water and wood for cooking. Mothers take turns volunteering their time preparing the lunch.

But the program depends on donations to make the meal more nutritious, with the addition of beans and vegetables. The cost of providing such food? $20 per day.

That’s right, $20 can buy lunch for 300 children.

The current funds are due to run out at the end of July, just after the students return from their (two week!) summer vacation. If you would like to treat 300 children to lunch one day, please visit www.thekeshotrust.org and follow the links for donating via PayPal. Make sure the payment goes to “EMAYO School Lunch Program.”

For more information on the Kesho Trust, EMAYO and their projects, please visit the Kesho Trust website. Power and internet connection permitting, we will keep you updated on the progress of the programs.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read