My Chosen Vessels (MCV) has been uplifting the Maasai people for over a decade through its clean water, education, and cultural preservation initiatives. In 2019 MCV launched a legacy project to open the first and only community-led Maasai Heritage Museum on the outskirts of Amboseli National Park. We are delighted to launch a new project to economically empower Maasai women through a Maasai Heritage Café & Marketplace.
The Maasai Heritage Café & Marketplace will be built in a prime location on the main road just 10 miles from Amboseli National Park (“Park”) front gate where all the traffic passes to enter the Park. With the establishment of the Park, the region’s lucrative tourism industry grows with approximately 600,000 tourists per year. Despite the tourisn industry in Amboseli, the Maasai currently find themselves increasingly disenfranchised from both the tourist economy and the loss of the Park’s crucial natural resources. Not only are the Maasai excluded from their former lands and resources, but the current tourism industry fails to provide adequate compensation to the Maasai communities.
The goal of the café & marketplace is for the Maasai people, especially women, to benefit directly from tourism educating visitors about Maasai culture. The Maasai culture is known around the world, however, the Maasai people themselves have had little opportunity to tell or prosper from their own story and rich culture. The majority of the Maasai living around the Park still suffer from a lack of clean water, healthcare, adequate nutrition, and education opportunities, especially for Masasi women who suffer the most from illiteracy, they are often trapped in a cycle of poverty while watching tourists enjoy safari’s through their land to see the wildlife.
MCV is establishing several community-led social enterprises for cultural conservation and economic empowerment at the museum. Two of these social enterprises are the Maasai Café & Marketplace, two economic ventures that will be owned and operated solely by Maasai women. The Maasai Café & Marketplace will be two additional buildings situated on our 3-acre property near the Amboseli National Park gate for tourists to visit to purchase food and Maasai handicrafts to economically empower Maasai women. This will provide the opportunity for Maasai women to create a global market selling products to tourists, increase their skill set, and lead their own revenue-generating activities to increase their income to support Maasai families.
The majority of Maasai women do not receive a formal education or vocational training, therefore the women are excited to be trained and have this opportunity to own and operate the Maasai Café and Marketplace to sell their own handmade products and food to tourists. Initially, we will train nine Maasai women to build and operate the businesses, but, over time, a larger number of women will benefit from both the cafe and marketplace.
The projected outcomes from this project are to economically empower Maasai women, build self-confidence, and increase women’s skills to manage their own income-generating business in the tourism sector.
Maasai women craft one of a kind, intricate pieces of beadwork that represent crucial components to the Maasai’s rich heritage. Already skilled craftswomen, they lack only the space, equipment and supplies, and business strategy to earn larger profits for themselves and their families. Currently, Maasai women chase tourists in cars along the street to sell these handmade heritage pieces. The Museum’s marketplace will provide a conducive space for their art to be sold with dignity. The Marketplace will also provide a comfortable work area for beading, housing for sewing machines and supplies, and displaying their quality products for a global market. MCV will hire trainers from the vocational school to train the women in entrepreneurial skills, and sewing to increase their skills to make a variety of products that will sell to tourists.
MCV will hire instructors to train the Maasai women to manage the Café and prepare traditional foods and snacks for tourists. Because they have never been given the opportunity or training to work in a professional capacity, this will be the only café and store around the Park that is managed and staffed by Maasai women. Whereas meals in other restaurants catering to tourists come at a high price and are removed from the local indigenous communities, the Café – rooted in authentic Maasai culture – will provide meals affordable to both tourists and the average Kenyan citizen to attract more customers.
Phase 1: Construction
We need to raise $50,000 for phase 1 of construction
MCV will begin the first phase of its Maasai Café & Marketplace project by hiring local Maasai contractors and engineers to build the Café and Marketplace alongside the Maasai women. MCV will employ local Masasi to complete every aspect of the construction process, including gathering and creating building materials, designing and engineering the space, and constructing the Café & Marketplace. Throughout its construction and following its completion, the Café & Marketplace will be owned and operated by the Maasai.
Phase 1 provides valuable vocational training to the Maasai while also paying fair wages for labor and establishes the community ownership defining this project’s entirety.
Phase 2: Equipping
We only need to raise $5,000 for phase 2 of equipping
Thanks to MCV’s partnership with Rotary, and our previous donors, we already have most of all the equipment to launch the Maasai Cafe & Marketplace. We have over $50,000 of donated equipment ready to use, once the facility is constructed.
Rotary donated the Marketplace Supplies: Beads, Fabric, Sewing Machines, Supplies to Start Producing Handicrafts, plus all the Cafe Supplies. We only need $5,000 for the tables, chairs, and food to launch the center.
* Stocking the Marketplace & Café at the project’s inception will require $5,000 seed funding before reaching sustainable profit margins.
Once the facility is up and running, MCV will provide ongoing training to the Maasai women to operate the Maasai Café & Marketplace. Throughout this period, Maasai women will learn how to apply their own skill sets to through entrepreneurship training and operating the Café & Marketplace, the space provides a traditionally marginalized group, Maasai women, with the opportunity to achieve economic and personal growth.
The final phase of the project will provide the Café & Marketplace with marketing exposure to draw the crowds needed for it to succeed. Digital and print marketing methods will allow MCV to advertise the Café & Marketplace within the Amboseli region and beyond.
Online & print materials will be distributed throughout Amboseli at KWS Gate, Amboseli Airstrip, Amboseli Hotels, Airports, and Tour Companies. * All our donor’s logos will be included.