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solar 3

As many of you will know, a group of 11 of us undertook the massive challenge to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (Africa’s highest mountain) in July this year. The monies raised are intended to fund our human/lion conflict mitigation programme in Merrueshi, Kenya.

Fantastic news is that WE DID IT!!  It was a lot harder than any of us ever imagined, but we dug deep and remembered that we were doing it for the lions! We worked as a team and supported one another (we’ve all become lifelong buddies now!!) and each time the going got tough, we shouted LION and found the strength to keep going!

Uhuru

Well…  we are still less than halfway to our fundraising target, but the good news is that we most certainly have received enough to get the project off the ground.

Please can we ask all of you to also dig deep now and spare whatever you can to contribute to this project. Every penny donated is going to the project and as you will see below, it is an amazing initiative that is transforming people’s lives and saving lions.

 

The Project

The Merrueshi ecosystem sits directly beside Amboseli National Park near the Kenya/Tanzania border. You can see Mount Kilimanjaro from Merrueshi and in fact, water coming down from Kilimanjaro finds its way into Amboseli National Park to bring much needed hydration in the dry season.

The Merrueshi ecosystem consists of 58 villages (manyattas), where households and livestock live together behind feeble thorn bush fences.

Manyatta 2

Because of the proximity of the National Park, the entire area suffers high levels of predation from lions and other predators. Carnivores in search of food find livestock an easy prey as their natural prey is more scattered (especially during the ever longer dry season) and increasingly poached. And it is so much easier for a carnivore to go for an easy kill, rather than concentrating on their natural prey.

These rural communities rely on their livestock for their wealth and every predation incident adds further to the levels of poverty already suffered by these people. They retaliate by killing the lions and other predators. It is a lose lose situation.

The LionAid project, devised together with the Maasai themselves, involves the provision of blinking lights to protect the perimeter fence of the manyatta in return for the householders donating livestock, which then becomes an “Insurance herd” and stays within the community. This branded Insurance herd is used to replace animals lost to predation within the Merrueshi community, the administration of which remains in the hands of the community Elders.

In further negotiations with the Maasai Elders, it was decided to not only provide the perimeter fence with blinking lights, but to also provide a light (not blinking!) in each of the households within the manyatta. All these lights to be powered by large solar panels.

solar panel

Provision of these household lights should not be underestimated! These families, for the first time ever, have a light in their houses – small houses that traditionally are very dark inside with no windows.

Manyatta 1

There is great joy at the transformation in their lives – can you imagine living your life with no light once the sun goes down?

And children, for the first time, can read schoolbooks at home!

lights

 

What all this does, and this is very important, is begin to associate protecting lions with bringing good things into their lives and it dispels the usual thought that lions and other predators need to be destroyed.

This matters…. If a community is going to be able to co-exist with lions, there needs to be benefits on both sides. Lions will stop being killed in retaliation for predation incidents which become much less frequent and rural communities can begin to feel safer and recover their prosperity – their livestock

LionAid have equipped the first manyatta (village) with lights and the feedback from the community is overwhelming. Such gratitude and joy at this huge transformation in their lives. Photos of children standing under the light in their houses with huge smiles on their face! Very humbling. We take so much for granted in our own lives. We forget how hard life is for these people.

1st manyatta 2

And the Maasai Elders administer this project themselves, also very important– and to our absolute delight, they have decided to include female representatives on their decision-making committees.

It is so wonderful to see how these simple lights are bringing about such an evolution in their lives and the proof of the pudding will be to see how the reduction in predation incidents and retaliatory killings unfolds.

We are just now transferring the funds to commence the light installation at the second manyatta – a manyatta that suffers massive predation and a manyatta very close to the community primary school - how wonderful will those household lights be for the schoolchildren living there? Education is key and these children will have a better opportunity to study at home than they ever had before.

 We will still have another 57 manyattas to furnish with lights. We will do this one manyatta at a time as the funds roll in.

Please become a part of this evolution. Maybe you, or even your company, wants to furnish a complete manyatta with lights. An individual or company providing funds for a complete manyatta can have your name proudly displayed on the perimeter fence of that manyatta.

 But for all of us that can only contribute a smaller amount - every penny counts…

 

Please help.

 

Peter Haygarth pic

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 12:30