By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent,
The Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) recently launched a project targeting the youth and women that is expected to transform the lives of members of the pastoralist community as they diversify on ways of earning their living.
Dubbed Biashara Mashinani, the project entails NRT giving soft loans to the groups so that they can set up businesses.
While it seeks to empower the youth and women as they embrace new ways of earning their livelihoods, the project is expected to spawn entrepreneurial spirit among members of the community and help them shift their reliance on the pastoral driven economy.
Sammy Lekalaile, a Maasai moran in Samburu county recalls that some two years ago, they would raid manyattas and escape with goats and cows in their quest to own large herds of cattle.
But the 23-year-old says he got tired of that life, fraught with the danger of being killed by rivals or anti-stock theft police who occasionally pursued them.
For the past one year, Lekalaile has engaged in manual work in shopping centers as members of the pastoralist community change their lifestyle and embrace other means of earning their livelihoods.
“I desired to own hundreds of cows and one of the ways was to steal them. But I discovered if I continued that way I would not live for long. Life is also changing and I had to look for other means of survival,” Lekalaile said in an interview. He is one of the 42 youths who benefited from the Biashara Mashinani project.
NRT chief executive officer Tom Lalampaa says even as they focus on wildlife conservation, NRT is also seeking ways of empowering members of the community. Engagement of the youth in the project is also expected to help improve security in the cattle rustling prone area.
While the youth are being trained on skills including wielding, carpentry and electronics, and given money to motorbikes to engage in the boda boda transport sector, women have been given soft loans to set up businesses.
“We are currently working with 3,500 households and women engaged in beadwork are churning out products that are being marketed internationally, earning them a living,” Mr Lalampaa said.
He spoke recently during the launch of the Biashara Mashinani project and disbursement of Sh6 million to women groups at Kalama conservancy headquarters where Samburu governor Moses Kasaine was the chief guest. The project is supported by USAID and Swedish embassy in Nairobi under the IMARA Programme Consortium.
Mr Lalampaa said they bought the motorbikes for the youth as start-up as they seek to get into the transport business.
Mr Lekalaile now owns a motorbike that costs Sh110,000, an asset he would not have dreamt of possessing, and with projections of earning Sh1,000 daily, he will easily manage to repay the interest-free loan at a monthly rate of Sh5,000.
The youths expressed optimism that they would complete paying their loans and secure more funding to grow their businesses.
“I want to finish paying in less than a year so that I get another loan and buy another motorbike. This is a good opportunity to transform my life,” said Lopanu Letoo, 23, another beneficiary.
As for women, the money they get is invested in the livestock trade where they buy and sell goats and beadwork.
Ms. Ngilian Lokorkovu, a mother of four, said the money she makes has enabled here take care of her family. On Wednesday, she got S22,000 that she said hoped to invest in her livestock business.
“The youth and women are doing well and for instance, the products women make using beads are being marketed in many parts of the world including the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Currently, they have pooled capital of Sh10 million in a Sacco which is growing,” said Mr Lalampaa.
Mr. Kasaine said the county government was collaborating with NRT in conservation efforts and would pump money into the various projects the organization is engaged in so as to transform the community.
“Each year we are allocating Sh120 million in youth and women enterprise fund which is intended to empower them. Samburu has over the years been known for insecurity but these projects are transforming the region,” the governor said.