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Since launching our Mama Simba program in 2013, we have engaged 300 Samburu women in conservation. The core Mama Simba group consists of 10 women, who work with other women within their communities, thereby spreading conservation messaging through peer-to-peer sharing. The women participate in conservation training and litter removal campaigns, and report on lion sightings and conflict issues. In exchange, we set up weekly schooling to provide educational opportunities they never had before, and also offer training in new beaded art craft, so they can diversify their income.

Now, in response to strong positive feedback by participating women, we are expanding the Mama Simba program into new areas and offering new opportunities for the women to get involved in conservation.

The Mama Simba women with Shivani in the classroom where they are learning to read and write. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

The Mama Simba women with Shivani in the classroom where they are learning to read and write. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

Working in Four New Areas

In 2016, we will introduce the Mama Simba program into four new locations in Westgate Conservancy in northern Kenya. Women in these locations have already expressed an interest in joining the program. We are conducting questionnaire surveys with women in each location to provide a baseline against which we will be able to evaluate the program’s effectiveness over time. We also hope to set up an additional school for women from these four new locations.

Rebecca proudly displays her Mama Simba shuka (wrap) in her village. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

Rebecca proudly displays her Mama Simba shuka (wrap) in her village. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

More Targeted Education and Training

The recent feedback survey highlighted that the education initiative was highly valued by the women. However, the results also indicated that improvements should be made to ensure the women continue to make progress and that teaching effectively addresses the women’s differing ability levels.

The feedback survey also found that all the women would be interested in receiving more conservation training. Moving forward, Ewaso Lions will lead sessions covering themes such as: managing conflict situations, livestock husbandry practices, identification of carnivores from tracks and signs, importance of conservation, and more. We hope that this training, in conjunction with the topics covered under the education initiative, will enable the women to collect information following incidents of livestock depredation and ensure they are able to effectively deal with any resulting conflict, and to advise others of methods to reduce depredation in future.

Cleaning Up Waste in Villages

Rather than having one-time litter cleanups in villages, we wish to make the Mama Simba waste removal campaign more sustainable and effective. We will conduct a waste audit to ascertain the quantity and type of materials that are being wasted locally and determine whether the women are able to turn this waste into quality products that can be sold to generate supplementary income.

Women learn about wildlife conservation and obtain skills that they can use in all aspects of their lives. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

Women learn about wildlife conservation and obtain skills that they can use in all aspects of their lives. (Photo Credit: Ewaso Lions)

Beadwork for Income

The beadwork component of the Mama Simba program is valued highly by the women. We now intend for the current Mamas to train two or three women in each new locations how to make the beaded lions. Expansion of the beadwork component of the program will help us to meet increasing demand for the beaded lions, as well as provide another opportunity for the women to spread awareness about lions and their conservation within the Conservancy.

With the Mama Simba survey demonstrating positive results for the program, we look forward to taking this program to the next level. By carefully designing each aspect of the program, we see a real opportunity to engage more Kenyan women in conservation, and create a secure future for lions and other large carnivores in the region.

(This article originally appeared on Ewaso Lions. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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