The Maasai people of Kenya are pastoralist.
Cattle rearing is their main source of income and is traditionally done by men. During times of drought, the men move from one place to another in order to find suitable pastures for their cattle while the women and children remain at home. Due to the harsh realities they face, Maasai women group together for support, creating powerful and caring relationships with one another. They spend their days creating beautiful beadwork and burning wood for charcoal to sell for food.
The region of Laikipia is very arid due to deforestation and extreme soil erosion. There is now realization amongst the women that the cutting of trees is fuelling increased soil degradation and consequently crop failures. When the threat of starvation looms due to extreme drought, their diet consists of sour milk and blood from cattle. Life expectancy for the women of Laikipia averages 45 years. This situation inspired the women to create an alternative source of income and food security by founding The Nabulu Women’s Aloe Group, one of six aloe groups in Laikipia that the Sustainable Lush Fund is supporting.
The Nabulu (meaning ‘to grow’) Women’s Group is comprised of twenty Maasai women between the ages of 25 and 40. The women meet twice a week and learn to read, write and speak Kiswahili. This gives them the opportunity to grow as a group and as individuals, gaining strength and courage to create a shared sustainable livelihood. During this time, they experimented with creating aloe based cosmetics, selling them at the local market.
Their aloe leaves arrive at our factory in their full form and are freshly cut to extract the gel. Recently, Sustainable Lush Fund donations have gone to invest in fencing to protect the aloe from being trampled on by wild elephants and camels, an aloe nursery, a watering system and farming equipment. Through our partnership with Maasai permaculturist Joseph Lentunyoi and Laikipia Permaculture Centre, we are working with the women on introducing nutritious plants to the arid land, for both the sustainability of the land and for food.