We have strong connections with a remote Maasai community in a small village west of Kilimanjaro, called Olmolog.
Olmolog village is in Monduli District and straddles an area from near the Mt. Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve and the Amboseli plains where the Kenya border forms the Northern boundary of the village.
The pastoral lands also support wildlife and although the density of wildlife is low the Northern boundary areas contiguous with the Amboseli National has healthy population of elephants which use the area seasonally. A group of about 20 mature bull elephants some with spectacular ivory frequent this area year around whereas the family units tend to move out to surrounding areas as the area dries out after the rains.Rarer species such as the gerenuk and the oryx, lesser Kudu and eland can all be seen within the village lands.
Cash income for the villagers comes from growing wheat, beans and maize. Livestock is generally not sold excepting in times of more extreme hardship. Tourism is employing guards, scouts and guides and rental of donkeys for pack animals supporting treks. Bed-night fees and annual fees from tourism provide a significant amount of income. The village has also got a cave painting site which probably dates back 200-300 years. The site is used to this day for Orpul ceremonies.
Several years ago the village entered into an agreement with a local tourism company and this agreement gave the company exclusive use of a core area with a camp -site & with general use of the village lands for trekking and fly camping.
The Amboseli ecosystem stretches from Kenya into Tanzania including the Sinya Olmolog and neighbouring village areas. Vital corridor links for the movement and dispersal of wildlife from Amboseli National Park into Kilimanjaro and Arusha National Parks and the Northern Maasai Steppe are crucial to the survival of wildlife.
The conservation of the environment and the continuation of a traditional pastoral lifestyle are interlinked and maintaining the status quo is a means of conserving the rich wildlife of the area which can bring the village as much if not more than alternate land use forms. On the other hand a traditional lifestyle does not give any future to the majority of youngsters that will become tomorrows custodians of the land. A small minority will take the place of their parents as herders and as farmers but the rest must be properly equipped to enter mainstream Tanzanian life. In this they must compete for jobs.
The village therefore sees that the highest possible priority lies in educating the young.
However the village only has the means to provide primary education not secondary or even Tertiary education. The problem of further schooling is a problem but one that has to be tackled once the basic primary school infrastructure has been completed.
Mindful of the limitations the village primary school the village has plans to build a secondary school and in the meantime will seek to create a bursary fund for talented children that can continue on to secondary education and above.
The village prepared a village primary school development plan and sought to finance this plan by whatever means it could. This included donor funding, communal collection of money and Govt. grants. The government will complete any School building brought to lintel level by a community.i.e. it will complete the roof.
Based on this initial development plan provided by the village, The Tribes Foundation made a grant to Olmolog for the expansion of their existing school. The funds from The Tribes Foundation have so far provided 2 new classroom, a bock of 10 toilets for the children and 2 new accommodation units for resident teachers.
The brickwork for these rooms was completes up to eave level by the community and the Tanzanian government provided the roofing material in line with their policy of joint community projects. These rooms were completed by the villagers and formed the first phase of our involvement with Olmolog.
The school rooms add extra capacity for 80 pupils in a school which currently benefits around 480 children. This is a primary school serving a large community spread over a wide area – it is not uncommon for the kids to walk 3 or 4 kilometres each way to school.
A very big thanks to all who helped donate to this project so far, especially friends and family of Valerie Hewitt.
West Kilimanjaro as it is known is in a rain shadow created by Mt. Kilimanjaro and therefore it has less rain than the South and East facing slopes of the mountain that collect rain from on the prevailing winds passing over the Indian Ocean. That means that the upper areas where agriculture is possible, face an uncertain rainfall regime with crop failure from time to time.
At the end of December 2007 we donated money to help go towards a new water system so that the kids don’t have to take turns in walking 5 miles a day to collect water for the school.The work on this has not yet started, but we hope that it will be up and running by about mid-2008.
There is still much more that the school needs and we hope that we may be able to fund more projects here in the future. For example they need more classrooms so more children can go to school here; they want to start a bursary fund so that older children can get a chance at going to secondary school; they want to build a nursery school; and the village wants to expand their tiny health clinic.