MEP Helps The Maa Trust Distribute Food

The food package assembly line at The Maa Trust.

The Sidekick Foundation, Inc. is Mara Elephant Project’s core funder in the United States and they also support The Maa Trust in their work to ensure the success of conservation through sustainable community development in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The Sidekick Foundation focuses on the protection of wildlife in Kenya through their support of MEP but is also invested in seeing the communities that live alongside wildlife thrive. The rapid and global spread of the COVID-19 virus has brought with it challenging future implications for the communities in the Mara that The Maa Trust works diligently to support. The economic downturn due to the loss of tourism and restrictions on movements implemented by the Kenyan government have resulted in The Maa Trust having to temporarily shut down Maa Beadwork and Maa Honey and send home all of their scholarship children from the program. Without the income generated for the women and children who are supported by the beadwork and honey programs, food scarcity is a deep concern.

Packages being assembled last week for distribution by May 2.

This ties directly into the wildlife conservation work of MEP as we work closely with communities to protect Kenya’s iconic elephants and the Mara ecosystem. While MEP continues to protect elephants and mitigate human-elephant conflict with our ranger teams practicing social distancing in the field, we also understand the need to collaborate with partners like The Maa Trust to ensure communities are still benefiting from wildlife, even without tourism. This is where our mutual partner, the Sidekick Foundation, stepped in to help.

A staff member at The Maa Trust reading a letter at one distribution site from the Sidekick Foundation: “Sidekick Foundation partnered with The Maa Trust to provide you with a bundle of food worth 2500 KES. We hope that this food bundle will help you and your families be well fed and healthy during these very difficult times.”

The Sidekick Foundation funded food packages being distributed to 637 Maasai families who work in The Maa Trust beading and honey projects or are supported by the scholar program and have all lost the income they earn as a result of the decline in tourism due to COVID-19. These families are all former Maa beadwork, honey or scholarship beneficiaries and these staple food packages will provide emergency relief to them.

A beneficiary carrying the food pack home.

“Having discussed the difficulty that the families are having buying food with our partner the Sidekick Foundation, I was delighted when they presented this extremely generous offer to provide food for the families who are unable to earn their usual income through our social enterprises because of the closure of the organisation. I appreciate that 637 families are only a fraction of the deserving families in the Maasai Mara, however, this generous support will have a direct and powerful impact on thousands of people and for that we are very grateful.”

The Maa Trust CEO Dr. Crystal Mogensen

Mara Elephant Project is assisting with the distribution of the food packages by providing a 4-wheel-drive vehicle with a ranger and driver (pictured left). Getting the food safely to the remote locations is an important part of this project’s success. All of the Kenyan Ministry of Health safety protocols are being followed for the food distribution to the 12 different sites. The Maa Trust provided training to communities on social distancing, proper hand washing protocols and identifying coronavirus symptoms. The food aid will benefit the average family for one month and The Maa Trust is working with MEP to get all of the packages distributed by May 2.

The Maa Trust staff Joseph Martim leading a hand washing demonstration at one of the pick up locations.

All of the families being supported by this grant from the Sidekick Foundation live in the Maasai Mara alongside the wildlife MEP protects and we are happy to partner with The Maa Trust on this worthy initiative.