An eco-friendly experience in the Maasai Steppe in Northern Tanzania
Between Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, in a land of sheperds called Maasai Steppe, in 2003 Oikos created a low environmental impact tented camp, managed in close collaboration with the community of the Mkuru village. Mkuru Training Camp (MTC) has two souls: it is an ecotourism destination and an educational, research centre. Here, for over 10 years, we have been promoting trainings for local communities in different sectors: women empowerment, food security and good environmental practices.
At least 3,000 persons have been trained here and 200 researchers from several universities (including Milan Bicocca, Insubria and Sassari in Italy, Nelson Mandela in Tanzania and Illinois in the United States) used the camp as field station for their activities. Today MTC guarantees an income to 10 Maasai and Meru people: a successful exemple of economic sustainability, a long-lasting change.
Guido and I arrived at Mkuru one morning in September 2002. We were looking for a place to provide training on the opportunities that tourism offered to the local communities. At the slopes of Mount Meru, in a beautiful part of the savannah, we found four abandoned stone houses, the involuntary bequest to the village from an adventurous entrepreneur who had had to leave the country in a great hurry. "Will you allow us to rent these buildings?" I asked Pello, the elderly chief of the Maasai village, off the top of my head, without giving it much thought.
He said yes straight away. And added: "In exchange, instead of paying us rent, you could build us a school for the village". With the help of treasured friends, we managed to collect the first eight thousand euros needed for the school in Mkuru. The inauguration, which took place nine months later, was attended by all. So happy were they to see what we had made it possible. The great celebration marked the start of an alliance between Oikos and the Maasai community of Mkuru, which fifteen years later is stronger than ever. Mkuru Training Camp (MTC) is now a training centre for local communities, students and volunteers. Both local and international. With the mission of promoting "good practices" for managing the fragile environmental resources from which the lives and income of the community depend: the arid pastures, food for the livestock and at risk of desertification; the forest of Mount Meru, indispensable source of water for 500,000 people; the fertile irrigated lands at the foot of Mount Meru, exposed to pesticide abuse. Mkuru has allowed scientific collaboration between local and international universities and research institutions. The following were established: Camel Safari, a small community tourism enterprise; Maasai Women Art, a cooperative of Maasai women awarded at 2015 Milan Expo, which decided to stop cutting trees for charcoal production purposes and focus on bead handicraft instead; CERC (Community Energy Resource Centre) for the distribution of renewable energy and, from 2016, an experimental centre for vegetable leather tanning. And MkuRun, the marathon in August. All this makes Mkuru a small door that is open to the world, a place where young men and women can nurture their dream of access to a better future, well before innovation and culture, the hope of finding their space in a changing world. For themselves and for their children. Somehow, if you are in Mkuru you can allow yourself to dream that dream”.
Visit Mkuru Training Camp website