Women are always at the front line of poverty, especially in rural areas. Northern Kenya is no exception, they feed the family, are responsible for finding water, collecting firewood and building the houses. Culture and poor access to family planning means that they can easily have eight children by the time they are thirty. Traditionally the husband controls the livestock and access to money. Men and women lead very separate lives and the men often don’t understand, or respect, the support a women needs to take care of her family. When the men move with the livestock to find water or pasture the women can be left alone to fend for themselves and their families for months at a time.
This is one of the reasons we are always so keen to support any group of women who have projects or enterprises that provide them with a source of income. They normally rely heavily on traditional skills such as making beaded jewellery and preserving animal skins, however recently we came across a group of women from Oldonyiro with a new and very appropriate project, making paper from elephant dung.
The Oldonyiro women’s group is called Naserian Noltome (Peace Elephant). DARE Foundation is helping the group to improve their product and to find markets for it. We are also taking women from Naserian Noltome to teach their skills to other pastoralist women’s groups in the area .
Increasing the number of women who make elephant dung paper is good for everyone, including the elephants. By forming a co-operative the women’s groups can reach much wider markets because they can ensure a greater and more reliable supply of paper. It also provides a larger number of families with an alternative income, something to fall back on in times of drought and need but also something to build for their future and the future of their children. Lastly, but not least, by becoming the source of a valuable resource for the local people the elephants are more tolerated and seen as less of a threat. This leads to greater protection for this remarkable animal.