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Maasailand Safari: A Model for Reform of African Tourism

01.01.0001 INTRODUCTION Africa-bound travelers can enhance their wildlife safari with authentic insights into the native cultures of Kenya and Tanzania on the Maasailand Safari, a model, community-based, sustainable tourism program that protects wildlife and helps the indigenous Maasai people. It is designed by Wildland Adventures in cooperation with the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition (MERC), a grassroots network of Maasai organizations advocating for the protection of traditional land rights of the Maasai people, and for conservation, management, and sustainable use of the great ecosystems of East Africa. Wildland Adventures offers monthly, scheduled small-group departures and private, custom itineraries of the ground-breaking Maasailand Safari as a model for reforming traditional safari tourism. 2006 land cost is $3,850 per person all-inclusive from Nairobi (not including international airfare). Current Tourism Practices in Kenya Threaten the Maasai and their Stewardship of East Africas Wildlife The Maasai culture preserves a unique and treasured way of life in East Africa. The Maasai are a pastoral people who live in harmony with the rich natural world of Kenya and Tanzania. Maasailand borders, and in some cases extends into, the territory of most of Kenyas major parks. The Maasai rely heavily on the health and abundance of natural resources on and around their lands, serving as stewards of a vast array of wildlife that travels on the broad plains connecting protected areas in Kenya and Tanzania. As a people, they have maintained their distinct cultural identity even in an age of pervasive Western influence. Kenyas wildlife and native cultures, particularly the Maasai, have attracted widespread international attention for decades. While this attention is well-deserved and leads to some benefits, the rapid expansion of worldwide tourism over the past fifty years now poses major threats to both the fragile balance of life on the African continent and its indigenous cultures. In particular, unregulated tourism practices in Kenya are negatively affecting the Maasai. Because of their proximity to the internationally renowned parks of East Africa and their dependence on natural resources, the Maasai face increasing competition for threatened natural resources. Often this competition comes from tour operators and tourist lodges. The collective activities of tour operators and lodges are unsustainable and degrade natural systems in and around the parks. The tourism industry frequently portrays the Maasai as a tourist attraction rather than a unique people who should be understood and treated with respect. Certain operators within the industry market culturally or environmentally sensitive tours that in reality often do more harm than good. While the tour operators profit from their practices, the Maasai and the wildlife that they protect -- the very essence of the tourists African experience -- rarely profit financially or otherwise from contact with the tourists. In addition, as the Maasai face reductions in their rangeland due to expanding development, their ability to protect the biodiversity that populates these plains also decreases. This growing tension demands an immediate, cooperative response to ensure the future of tourism in Kenya. The deterioration in relations between the tourism industry, the Maasai, local authorities, and the Government of Kenya must be reversed now in order to prevent permanent, irreversible damage to the unique natural and cultural resources in East Africa. Our Shared Vision For Sustainable Tourism in the Future The Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition [MERC], a small but well-established grassroots organization, is advocating on behalf of the Maasai people for a balanced approach to tourism in Kenya. Wildland Adventures, Inc. [WA] is a leading U.S. ecotourism company that offer cultural and natural history explorations as a means to protect natural environments, preserve cultural heritage and bring direct economic benefits to local communities. Together, MERC and WA are dedicated to preserving the integrity of Maasailand ecosystems, with their rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, for the benefit of the Maasai people, the nations of Kenya and Tanzania, and present and future generations of the world. They are dedicated to the survival of the Maasai people through promotion of sustainable socio-economic development and preservation of Maasai cultural heritage. BACKGROUND Worldwide Development of Ecotourism According to experts, tourism is the worlds fastest growing industry and is currently estimated to employ 1 in 15 people worldwide. As tourism grows however, so do the attendant social and environmental problems, including cultural degradation of indigenous communities, economic exploitation and disruption of ecosystems. Ecotourism developed as an answer to these problems. Ecotourism strives to balance tourism development with environmental, social and cultural values. This nature-based, community-oriented tourism depends on the preservation of wilderness areas and indigenous cultures. By involving local communities in ecotourism, indigenous people can share in the economic benefits of tourism and lower barriers created by stereotypes about rural cultures through education and communication. Additionally, by directly applying tourism profits back into conservation efforts, the link between conservation and successful tourism is reinforced as community members realize the benefits of sustainable practices. Kenyas Tourism Industry Over forty years ago, Kenya began to establish itself as a tourist destination, particularly because of the unique opportunities for tourists to view its stunning biodiversity. For example, Kenya took a leading role to promote complete, non-consumptive commercial use of wildlife resources by outlawing hunting and trade in wildlife products in 1977. Since then, Kenya has become a key player in the international conservation arena and consequently, a popular destination for eco-tourists. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 1997 Kenya attracted six percent of all of Africas international tourists. WTO figures indicate that tourist numbers grew from 61,000 in 1963 to a staggering 1,003,000 in 1996. As a result, tourism is a vital part of the Kenyan economy, bringing an estimated US $400 million from an average of 700,000 visitors annually. According to the Kenyan Wildlife Service and the Ministry of Labor, 18 percent of wage earnings are either directly or indirectly linked to tourism. Additionally, tourist dollars help finance some of the Kenya Wildlife Services wildlife and habitat conservation programs. Although Kenyas tourism industry is the most important economic sector, it is rapidly becoming a liability to the nations environment as well as a threat to the cultural and social well-being of many local communities. According to the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), Kenya has over 4,000 independent tour operators. While many operators strive to conduct business in conformity with ecotourism principles, poor licensing procedures and the absence of government oversight have allowed the spread of unsustainable and unethical business practices. Regrettably, the tourism industry is now responsible for widespread and growing environmental and cultural damage. Specifically, the tourism industry contributes to forest depletion, water pollution, soil erosion, habitat destruction, wildlife harassment, economic exploitation, and cultural degradation of indigenous communities. This situation requires an immediate response in order to ensure the health of Kenyas environment, the cultural integrity of Kenyas local communities and the future of a competitive tourism industry. THE EFFECT OF TOURISM ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN KENYA Tourism in Kenya continues to undermine the cultural integrity, social fabric, human dignity, and environmental quality of tourist destinations. Tourism operations pose unprecedented threats to the environment and the survival of local communities, particularly those bordering wildlife protected areas such as the Maasai, Samburu, the Taita, the Kamba, the Kikuyu, and indigenous communities in the coastal region. Although tourism earns the government an estimated $400 million annually, local people have realized very little economic benefit from the industry. For example, Maasailand forms the backbone of a large portion of the tourism industry and yet Maasai communities living next to tourist destinations completely lack basic educational facilities, healthcare, employment opportunities, and job training. To address this inequity, MERC is encouraging reform within the industry so that the Maasai can contribute to critical policy decisions, participate in educating tourism operators and ensure the environmental health of their region. Such efforts are vital to the economic viability of the tourism industry in the area. Over the last three years, in its effort to develop an action plan for reforming the tourism industry, MERC has recorded the following primary concerns of the Maasai people. Cultural Exploitation Lack of properly trained tourism operators leads to the dissemination of misinformation to tourists about the Maasai way of life, cultural practices, and spirituality. This dishonesty and misinformation is seen in documentaries, photographs, books, articles and other publications, and in ordinary conversation. The tourism industry has and continues to engage in and encourage practices that are not only disrespectful, but also undermine Maasai cultural beliefs. In addition, the Maasai culture is exploited in marketing literature without permission or fair compensation. Several examples of specific exploitation exist. First, taking, publishing, and copyrighting pictures of nude children, women, warriors and elders are commonplace. Where Maasai images are used, tour operators copyright them without the informed consent of the Maasai person or persons involved. Second, tourist hotels and tour operators hire individuals who falsely hold themselves out as Maasai tour guides and lecturers. This practice results in a misrepresentation of the Maasai culture and perpetuates the spread of false information to tourists. Additionally, mass-produced fake products are marketed and sold to tourists as genuine Maasai artifacts. This practice undermines the quality and real monetary value of authentic Maasai artwork. Such endeavors undercut the sale of genuine artifacts and effectively disable community-based entrepreneurial initiatives, which cannot generate adequate income. MERC envisions several measures that stakeholders could implement to combat this disrespectful behavior: Develop and implement clear guidelines to regulate tourist and tour guide conduct in and around the parks, especially on indigenous lands. Draft, publish, and ensure availability of educational literature on sustainable tourism at all tourist entry points and at lodges and hotels throughout Kenya. Formulate an education and training program for tour guides, drivers and local community employees concerning culturally- and environmentally-sensitive tourism practices. Publish and distribute existing environmental and wildlife conservation and protection regulations to increase awareness. Encourage NGOs, community leaders, local authorities, and other stakeholders to participate in enforcing ethical behavior of tour operators in the field by reporting misconduct to relevant authorities. Environmental Damage The Maasai have lived in harmony with the rich ecosystems of East Africa for centuries. The concentration of wildlife conservation areas in Maasai territories and the sheer abundance of wildlife on the communal Maasai lands are directly attributable to the Maasai reverence for and stewardship of nature. The culture promotes wise use of non-renewable natural resources for future generations and Maasai tradition prohibits killing wildlife for commercial use or destruction of forests or any part of natural ecosystems. Wildlife still thrives in Maasailand, unlike in many other parts of the region where wild animals and their habitat have been eliminated either for food or to clear land for subsistence or commercial agriculture. However, despite the Maasai stewardship, encroaching development and tourist activities threaten both Maasailand and the biodiversity that lives upon it. The tourism industry is contributing to serious ecological problems taking place in Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, and other wildlife destinations in Maasailand. However, the Maasai Mara game reserve, though Kenyas premier wildlife preserve and leading tourist attraction, has born the brunt of the industrys unsustainable practices. These problems include over-harvesting of wood, solid waste pollution, habitat destruction, off-road driving and wildlife harassment. Wildlife is negatively impacted by tourism practices. Off-road driving in wildlife viewing areas erodes vegetation and destroys habitat. Wildlife harassment is also a product of tourism. Crowded by tour buses, animals are prevented from freely grazing or hunting. In countless instances, daytime hunters like the cheetah have gone without food for days because of constant harassment. A cheetah faces loosing cubs due to this inability to hunt. On numerous occasions, tourist buses have run over animals as they sped through the park. On July 24, 2001, four two-day-old cheetah cubs narrowly missed being run over by a tourist van as the driver raced to follow the cheetah mother. The mother had hid the cubs in the tall grass to protect them from predators. As the safari vehicles increasingly crowded around the newborns, the mother cheetah, who had remained by the cubs to protect them from the onslaught grew hungrier and was eventually forced to abandon the cubs, who were soon thereafter killed by a hyena. In addition to its land-based ecological impacts, tourism also leads to the over-consumption of water by tourist lodges, which has resulted in decreased water levels in local rivers. Water is used for showers, cooking, swimming pools, irrigating gardens, laundry and car washes. Furthermore, tourist lodges often discharge polluted water into nearby rivers or streams, endangering the health of the animals and Maasai communities downstream that rely on the same water sources for human and livestock consumption. In Amboseli National Park, for instance, a leading lodges sewer system discharges into a large wastewater pit that is situated less than twenty meters from a water source used by communities and wildlife in the southern section of the park. Lodges also lack waste recycling programs and often store and consume large quantities of diesel for transportation and power generation, further polluting the environment. The impact that tourism has on wildlife must stop. The Maasai, as guardians of the great biodiversity of East Africa, propose numerous measures that stakeholders can implement to help reverse the destruction: Adopt stringent laws that forbid wildlife harassment, increase penalties for violators and encourage widespread enforcement of the law. Enlist the Maasai and other local communities, and environmentally and culturally sensitive tour drivers, guides, and tourists to end wildlife harassment and monitor wildlife management practices. Outlaw off-road driving for game viewing by private cars, tour drivers and operators; ban oversize trucks from wildlife protected areas. Outlaw the use of car radios by drivers and guides to network information about the location of wildlife. This will make game viewing more natural and minimize the pressure on animals from overcrowding. Provide adequate waste disposal equipment at all tourist destinations to minimize wildlife foraging, which results from careless solid waste disposal. Require all accommodations to implement sustainable waste management programs, including recycling of garbage and water. Encourage the use of solar energy and promote collaborative efforts between the tourism industry and the Ministry of Energy to explore other alternative sources of clean energy. Require the lodges and tour guides to provide information to guests about environmentally acceptable practices, including appropriate waste disposal and respect for wildlife. Encourage scientific approaches to park management, in particular to monitor carrying capacities, ecological health and other indicators. Regulate the annual number of visitors to the parks and price visits in a manner that realistically reflects the experiential value. Economic Exploitation The Maasai people are exploited by the tourism industry and impoverished by a lack of education and jobs. Although Maasai culture and land provide a basis for tourism, the local people do not benefit economically from the industry, nor are they involved in related governmental decision-making. In fact, the Maasai people living in Kenyas premier tourist destinations are some of the countrys poorest. Despite the extensive use of their lands and exploitation of their culture, they constitute less than one percent of the labor force in the tourism industry. Until recently, Maasai have not received training on any significant level and do not have a fair opportunity for employment. With the exception of a few individuals, the few Maasai that are employed in the lodges, tented camps, and other segments of the tourism industry occupy undignified positions. For example, Maasai are often employed as night watchmen with only minimal compensation. In addition, the tourism industry sells replicas of traditional cultural products, under pricing the originals sold by local communities. Tourist lodges now build replicas of Maasai villages that compete with authentic community-based enterprises. Undoubtedly, the Maasai lack competitive advantage over the tourist lodges and hotels that are often well-financed and import well-trained, non-indigenous staff. These practices perpetuate the separation of the Maasai from the tourism industry and present a false view of the Maasai to tourists. As a result, with the creation of a tourism program by Wildland Adventures through direct links to local communities through MERCs grassroots network, it would be impossible to offer authentic cultural experiences on Maasailand. To combat these effects, MERC is working with Wildland Adventures to implement and advocate for the following actions: Encourage the tourism industry to invest a percentage of tourist dollars in conservation and community-based social and income generation programs. Request that the Government of Kenya or international donors initiate and finance Maasai womens cooperatives to enable the production and marketing of products to tourists. Restrict hotels and lodges from creating unfair competition by venturing into culture-based enterprises such as building and marketing replicas of Maasai villages. Create a micro-credit program for indigenous peoples to facilitate the establishment of tourism-related enterprises. Encourage institutions specializing in service industry training to guarantee a number of positions to qualified indigenous applicants who reside close to parks and other tourist resort areas. Ask the tourism industry and the government to eliminate wage discrimination based on ethnic origin and create standard criteria to ensure fair and equal treatment for all employees. Encourage local and national authorities to establish and maintain a strong scholarship program for Maasai children. Train the Maasai people in areas such as accounting, guest relations, management, housekeeping and food services to equip them with the necessary skills to enter the tourism job market. Operators claim that the reason most Maasai are not employed by the lodges in Maasailand is because they lack these skills. PROPOSAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MAASAI ECOTOURISM PRINCIPLES AND ACTION PLAN If Kenya is to protect and ensure the sustainable use of its biological and cultural resources, the country must embrace internationally acceptable ecotourism principles. These principles depend on the cooperation of the government, the tourism industry and local communities to ensure a sustainable future. Reversing the trend of environmental, cultural, economic, and social injustices perpetuated by the tourism industry and the various related sectors of the government will be a difficult task. It calls for firm moral, political, legal and resource commitment on the part of all stakeholders. MERC and the Maasai welcome a participatory process involving all stakeholders at every level. A Model Ecotourism Safari The Maasailand Safari program was formed by MERC and Wildland Adventures under a set of Ecotourism Principles and Code of Conduct developed by the Maasai and designed as a model for safari tourism reform in East Africa. The tour is aimed at increasing awareness of these issues and developing a dialogue among public and private sectors of tourism, conservation, economic development and social services. Tourist awareness of environmental and cultural issues at any destination is a fundamental component of an effective ecotourism program. Maasailand Safaris offer a way for tourists to combine wildlife viewing with opportunities to learn about conservation issues, and to experience Maasai culture in an atmosphere of mutual respect and enrichment for guests and hosts. By directly working at the grass-roots village level, these trips support community-based, income-generating ecotourism enterprises including guiding, lectures on Maasai culture, bead art workshops, village visits, etc. Groups are invited to visit Maasai schools and learn about Maasai culture and village concerns by meeting with teachers and community elders. Traditional dance and music is presented by organized womens groups and Maasai warrior workshops who collectively receive payments for their performance. Guests have opportunities to purchase native bead work directly from the artists and to go on walks in the bush with Maasai warriors learning tracking, lighting fire by rubbing sticks, and other native practices of living on the land. Special arrangements are made to meet with park wardens of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve which is managed by an elected council of Maasai community leaders. The group also with a staff biologist of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project who is a senior female biologist and local Maasai native of the region, to learn about the ongoing 30-year elephant study led by American scientist Cynthia Moss. A special departure of the Maasailand Safari organized by Wildland Adventures is a group of beading artists formed through Beads and Beyond, a local beadwork retail store of Bellevue, Washington. They carry a large cache of beads to re-supply a Maasai women's beading cooperative they started in 2003 near Amboseli National Park. In turn, these tourists are invited to Maasai communities who have had little contact with tourism. The Maasai are noted for their elaborate bead work, and tour participants who are also experts in the art of beading, share techniques and produce jewellery pieces together with native women using tools, beads and magnifying glasses donated by the tour groups. The Maasai Cultural Perspective Unlike other companies advocating environmentally and socially responsible tourism in Africa, by working in collaboration with local Maasai at the village level through MERCs grassroots network, Wildland Adventures is offering a uniquely Maasai perspective. Trip participants are fully briefed on what to expect when visiting Maasai Enkang (home/villages), proper etiquette in remote villages unfamiliar with western culture, and how to be a respectful guest. Wildland Adventures and MERC offer monthly small group departures of this trip as a model for environmentally and culturally sustainable tourism in East Africa. By working in partnership with local communities, a variety of social and environmental non-governmental organizations, the tourism industry and the governments of Kenya and Tanzania, these safaris will enhance the transfer of wealth to communities in remote areas through just compensation for Maasai participation, purchase of handicrafts, and a share of revenues collected from trip fees. The Meshanini Well Project On the first Maasailand Safari in August 2003, a group of 14 persons made a decision on their own initiative to donate $6,000 for the re-building of a collapsed well in the village if Meshannani near Amboseli National Park. After seeing the plight of local women who had to walk 20 kilometres to the nearest functioning water source, one couple on the trip said they would take the money out of their home equity line of credit to immediately wire it to Kenya upon their return to the United States if the rest of the group pledged to fund raise after their trip. So, the group announced to the local village the day after their visit that the local Maasai community could expect the $6,000 in two weeks and to begin making the necessary arrangements to rebuild the well. Upon their return home, the rest of the group raised the money from family and friends in 3 months to pay back the line of credit. As this same group was taken from village to village and school to school on the Maasailand Safari, and introduced to families, children and elders to learn about their life, the travellers were motivated to pool small amounts of their spending money to help fix the pump of another well broken by a rogue elephant and to donate to local schools. They also were very pleased to purchase bead work directly from women who had set up a display of their work this was the first time the local women sold their beaded work to tourists who came into their village. The total amount of dollars left by this group from the travellers was $8,020 (excluding donations and expenses paid by Wildland Adventures for guide and other services from the communities). In addition to the above donations to local villages and purchases by tour participants directly from local Maasai artists, Wildland Adventures makes payments directly into the local villages visited. The company hires a Maasai Trip Leader to accompany its group, pays local Maasai in each area visited to participate in the tour by leading walks and giving lectures about Maasai culture. The cost of each trip also includes $75 per participant that is deposited into a local bank account established by MERC to be used by local communities for education projects, water development and health care. Therefore, through actual costs built into the price of the safari that is paid by Wildland Adventures, each group departure of the Maasailand Safari generates an additional $2,500-$3,500 distributed among participating communities. Meitamei Dapash, MERCs Executive Director and the first Maasai trip leader of the Maasailand Safari, reported back from the second departure of this new program while in the Maasai Mara to state that: This program is not only empowering Maasai women, it is also bringing down walls of stereotypes and negative propaganda of the tourism industry about Maasai peoples culture and aspirations. Click here for his full report: http://www.wildland.com/trips/africa/100035/ken_tripreviews.aspx By involving local communities in ecotours like this, and offering our travellers the opportunity to give something back, indigenous people can share in the economic benefits of tourism such as better health, education and overall living conditions. In this manner, they are in better control to minimize destructive social and environmental impacts of conventional safari tourism on their lands. Theres also a huge payoff for Wildland Adventures travellers as well. Taking sufficient time between game drives in national parks for intimate and authentic cross-cultural interactions in local communities often creates the most memorable and meaningful experiences of their African safari. Anticipated Long-Term Actions The current favourable political situation in Kenya makes this the perfect time for positive social change, especially in the form of measures that will protect Kenyas valuable resources while encouraging long-term, sustainable economic development. However, it is often difficult to predict how ministries or industry representatives will receive proposals for social or economic changes to the status quo. Even if the government rejects the adoption of a national ecotourism policy, WA and MERCs ecotourism activities represent a practical, ongoing model for change that has already begun opening a dialogue among stakeholders, providing leadership opportunities for the Maasai community, and raising general awareness of the impacts of tourism activities, especially the positive benefits for Maasai when tourism is conducted within and by the native community. In this way, the Maasailand Safari is a crucial step forward in its ability to influence tourism practices in and around Maasailand. As the program continues to evolve and develop as the core of Wildland Adventures safari tourism program in East Africa, MERC and WA share a common vision for future development requirements and opportunities: 1. Tourist Awareness and Outreach. Tourist awareness of environmental and cultural issues at a destination is a fundamental component of an effective ecotourism program. Tourists learn how to protect and preserve local wildlife and habitats; interact and learn about local cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect and personal enrichment; and support community-based income-generation enterprises. This will continue to lead to the transfer of wealth to communities in remote areas and improvement in tourism operations in the field. Traveling with a Maasai escort, as well as a professional naturalist driver guide, participants on the Wildland Adventures Maasailand Safari are well informed of environmental regulations and cultural norms such that they have actively engaged in reporting drivers they observe violating rules, giving interviews to local media who have taken an interest in this safari program, and sharing proper safari etiquette with other tourists they encounter in common areas of local accommodations. 2. Increased Governmental Oversight of the Industry. The government should develop and enforce a code of conduct and ethics to regulate tourism operations in Maasailand and the country. These laws should govern the way the industry markets its products (e.g., national parks and local cultures), tourist and tour guide behaviour in parks and on Maasai communal lands, and regulate the manner in which the industry interacts with the local communities to protect the interests of vulnerable local populations. Further recognition of this program by national and international media will raise awareness by the government and stimulate public interest and political will for integrating tourism reform into the industry. 3. Integration and Training of Maasai into Tourism Operations. Available training programs in Kenya do not adequately teach tour operators to understand the laws pertaining to wildlife conservation, nor enforce regulations designed to protect game. Rather, professional driver-guide programs concentrate on teaching the names, description, behaviour, and distribution of the various wildlife species. There is an immediate need to produce a more informed, honest and dedicated group of guides and other professional leaders in the tourism industry. The Maasailand Safari has taken the first steps necessary of providing economic empowerment through training and employment opportunities in our safari operation. We have trained local Maasai community leaders to become escorts on the safari itinerary, to accompany the group throughout the countrya position that few, if any Maasai have fulfilled in the tourism industry. Furthermore, WA and MERC are providing guidelines for our local Kenyan in-bound tour operator, Nature Expeditions, upon their request for them to use in specialized training of their driver-guides concerning the special requirements of operating more environmentally and culturally sensitive tour operations in small communities throughout Maasailand. In order for more significant and lasting sustainable economic benefit, there will need to be similar integration and training of Maasai in other tour companies and in the numerous lodges throughout Maasailand. Increased economic independence will result from just compensation for Maasai products, a share of revenues collected from the parks fees, and prevention of dehumanizing photography and copyright violations. 4. Mechanism for Allowing the Maasai People to Benefit From and Support Tourism. The Maasai need assistance to establish a financial mechanism for the equitable collection and disbursement of revenue from tourism-related activities. Tourism revenue in Maasai territories should lead to tangible benefits for the Maasai, such as social programs aimed schools, health clinics, and a clean water supply. The Maasailand Safari has created a direct link between Wildland Adventures, the American tour wholesaler, its individual travellers, and individual members of local Maasai communities that has directly benefited the financial and material wealth of local Maasai. CONCLUSION Practices of the Kenyan tourism sector are causing cultural, economic and environmental damage, particularly in Maasailand. To restore the balance between natural resources and human interests, ecotourism offers immeasurable opportunities. As an organization that is representative of the Maasai people, MERC is committed to encourage ecotourism, and Wildland Adventures is an experienced and dedicated travel company to partner in the design, operation and marketing of a new kind of African safari tourism. The wildlife and natural abundance of Maasailand are a local, national and global resource, with the Maasai acting as its honoured custodians. Together, we recognize and appreciate that the global community has invested heavily in nature conservation, community development, and personal relationships between the Maasai people and their neighbours. Conservation and community development are essential for long-term, ongoing tourism enterprise as a basis of the Kenya economy. This philosophy supports the notion of collective responsibility to find solutions. MERC and Wildland Adventures anticipate that our cooperation will stimulate public discourse for development of an overall plan to balance economic development with conservation and the rights of local people. In the long-term, we envision the Maasailand Safari as a model for development of policies and initiatives that will help to train tour operators, educate tourists, create jobs for local Maasai and increase government oversight of the industry, all of which will increase the protection of Kenyas biological diversity.