The Main Characters of the Maasai Project
Seated under acacia trees, taking advantage of any shade that the savannah has to offer while building a future for their families, hundreds of Maasai women in Kenya and Tanzania can be found hand-embroidering the pieces of leather for Pikolinos. They are the main characters of the Maasai Project – a project that has sowed the seed of hope in the heart of Africa.
Between stitches, there are smiles, songs, and conversations. Without leaving their environments and without affecting their culture or lifestyle, the women of the Maasai community have learned about fashion, manufacturing processes and quality control systems. They are very meticulous with their embroidery, and each decorated piece of leather reflects the tribe’s strength, their colors and their identity.
Today, more than 1,000 women participate in the Maasai Project earning a stable salary – something that up until now had been reserved exclusively for the men. But most importantly, the work they are doing allows them to preserve their culture and lifestyle, and as a result of the income they receive, more than 1,000 Maasai families can access basic needs such as education, food, and medicine.
Another World is Possible
The silence of the savannah, the vastness of space, the Mara River, the wild animals, the warriors, and the smiles of the Maasai people are some of the things one never forgets after visiting the Maasai Mara.
For a Maasai native, to have a good heart, respect for nature, and take good care of your community are the most important values in life – values that sometimes are forgotten in the Western world.
Most of the Maasai women who collaborate with the Pikolinos Project have needs such as drinking water, medicine and money to pay for their children’s education. Today, with this initiative and thanks to the stable income that they receive from Pikolinos, these needs are being met. We can all contribute to this project and help more than 1,000 Maasai families continue to have reasons to smile; we can all keep building a better world together. Because we believe a better world is possible.
William Kikanae – Leader of the Maasai Project
Serenity, moderation, leadership, and perseverance. These are the traits that best define Kikanae Ole Pere – or William, as we know him in the Western world. William is a Maasai warrior who has been proclaimed leader by his community due to the efforts he has made over years in helping his tribe move forward.
He was born about 40 years ago during a rainy season, and since his years of childhood, his journey has revealed him to be one born to pursue a great goal, to fill an essential role: to help his people and to preserve the Maasai culture, while adapting to modern times.
He grew up in a very poor family and worked hard ever since he was a child to pay for his mother’s hospitalization. He would walk for miles all the way to Narok (a Maasai city) in order to buy beads for the Maasai women to make their handicrafts.
His bead business grew until he was able to buy himself a bicycle, help his mother with her illness, and be able to go to Nairobi – the capital of Kenya – to ask for help for his community.
He persevered for ten years, traveling to the big city, talking with tourists, businessmen, and organizations, until one day he met Rosa Escandell – the President of ADCAM – and saw a gleam of hope.
William had always believed in unusual purposes for the Maasai men, in women’s right to own property, that girls should not marry before the age of 18, that women were the cornerstone of the community and should be involved in decision-making, and that the Maasai people should have financial income from sources other than that of the tourist industry. But above all, he has always been proud of who he is.
These beliefs are what have made William a leader. He has been concerned with conveying his ideas to the warriors in order to change these issues; and he has done it with patience and from within, while always maintaining respect for his culture and the Maasai community values.
Today, his efforts are being rewarded. He is the true drive behind the Maasai Project.
Olivia Palermo – the Maasai Project Ambassador
Olivia Palermo, the internationally renowned fashion icon, is Pikolinos’ Maasai Project ambassador for another year running. Right from the start the model got herself involved, stemming from a strong belief in this project, which has now become a well-known standard in sustainable fashion.
Our ambassador traveled all the way to Kenya, where she met and spent time with the Maasai women and became friends with William, the tribe’s leader. Olivia is committed to this project and believes in sustainable fashion and in improving the quality of life of the Maasai community. On this basis, she will represent the image of Pikolinos’ most special collection for another year running.
ADCAM: The Link between Pikolinos and the Maasai People
The Maasai Project would not have been possible without ADCAM, Asociación de Desarrollo, Comercio Alternativo y Microcrédito [Association for Development, Alternative Trade and Micro-credits] – the organization with which Pikolinos collaborates and which is dedicated to fostering social projects in various places all over the world.
Education, health, women, and micro-credits are this association’s priorities; it promotes actions to be taken with regard to these issues, and to work on the root of problems suffered by disadvantaged towns, helping them to develop and evolve in line with their own values.
In this sense, Kenya is very much in ADCAM’s spotlight – particularly the Maasai Mara region, where the Maasai tribe is seriously threatened and declared in danger of extinction, according to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Rosa Escandell, President of ADCAM, is a woman with vast experience in opening channels of trade between co-operatives in southern countries and those in markets of the developed world. It was she who first contacted Pikolinos and proposed the possibility of launching this project with the Maasai community. ADCAM would be in charge of supervising all on-site production logistics, as well as supporting all the communication activity required to promote this initiative on a global scale in order to heighten awareness of how social responsibility can be applied within the world of fashion.
Shoes that travel all over the world
PIKOLINOS is a leading international footwear company based in Spain. It is established in more than 60 countries and has always been committed to fair trade and cooperation projects involving the world’s most disadvantaged nations.
Our shoes are famous for the comfort, color and quality of the leather used in their manufacture – always with the warm care of a hand-crafted product. These values come together perfectly with the development of a special product line directly from the Maasai tribe: colored beads embroidered by hand in Kenya, sandals made with love in Spain.
With this fifth sandal collection of Maasai designs, Pikolinos takes another step forward in its Corporate Social Responsibility outlook.
The pieces of leather are first cut in Spain based on set designs, and then they are sent to the Maasai Mara to be distributed among all the manyattas (villages where the Maasai people live) that participate in the project. There, thousands of miles away in the African savannah, untouched by highways, the women of the tribe – chatting away in Swahili as wild animals wander about nearby, making for an unusual working environment – embroider Pikolinos leather with emblems, colors, and designs that reflect their cultural identity. Once the products are embroidered, they are shipped back to Spain, where the footwear is finished and subsequently enters the appropriate distribution channels.
As a result, we have a very special collection of sandals that reflect the Maasai essence, with the colors and designs characteristic of that community.
ADCAM MARA VISION PROJECT: SOLIDARITY CAMP
ADCAM Mara Vision Project is an integral support project for the Masaai people carried out by ADCAM- Development Association, Alternative Trade and Microcredit in Kenya (www.adcam.es).
Since 2007 we are working with the Maasai community, one of the tribes in extinction danger according to the UN, to try to counteract the devastating effect that the white men presence caused, and forced the younger generations’ exodus to cities with the consequent loss of culture.
We work directly with the community, in coordination with the Maasai warrior and leader William Ole Pere Kikanae. He was the one to ask for our support and has demonstrated a high commitment level and seriousness to work with, getting a surprising development managed by themselves.
Our actions in Maasai Mara focus on three lines of work:
- Support women artisans, through establishing marketing channels to allow them to generate income for the whole community benefit.
- Primary education, through a school that once is done will offer complete time schooling to more than 150 Maasai children.
- Self-management and sustainability.It is in this last line of work where the idea of creating a solidarity camp arises, that ensures economical operation to the school and ensures the project sustainability. The camp is located in the Maasai Mara where the Maasai warriors introduce visitors to their customs, landscapes and lifestyleOur lodge has all the necessary comforts – European toilet, kitchen, dining, safari service … – plus the added attraction of being located next to the school and a Maasai manyatta, allowing a unique experience of interaction with community.
1. TENTS: Currently there are three tents for visitors, with place for two/three people. The dimensions are 3×3 m2 (9m2) and have indoor toilet with sink, shower with hot water and European toilet. They are equipped with bed linen and two cupboards to leave personal effects.
2. DINING ROOM (INSIDE AND OUTSISE): It has been enabled a larger tent to serve as indoor dining room, including a furniture where drinks can be served, and two sofas with a coffee table next to a small bookstore where the client can relax and read. However, if time permits, an outdoor table is mounted in the middle of the trees to eat outdoors, including at night by the campfire, where warriors from the manyatta accompany guests with their dances and songs.
3. KITCHEN: In the building constructed for the school offices there has been enabled a kitchen that includes a refrigerator and other household appliances where Francis, our chef, prepares delicious menus in line with the tastes of our guests and with all hygiene requirements.
4. SUPPLIES: It has been built a well to ensure the supply of running water that is required. Using an electric pump powered by solar energy water rises to the tank, which always maintains proper levels to ensure that the system works. It has also been placed solar panels to provide hot water for the shower. It is still pending the solar system, but for now we solve with the solar torches, fire, lanterns and candles.
To serve our guests we have a well prepared team, including 24h service, cook and driver / guide for safaris and other activities, which include:
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Pick up and return to the Mara airstrip
- Cocktail watching sunset
- A Maasai dance evening
- Visit to the Manyatta ( maasai village)
- Walk with the warriors by the Mara river
- Night sleeping in a tent in the savannah watching the hippos and the sunrisefrom the river
- Visit to ADCAM project (school and women)
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION VISIT THEIR WEBSITE: www.adcam.es.
All Photography work by Johannes Huebl