Mama Simba

Mama Simba
Local women were eager to get involved in conservation, and approached us asking for conservation training and education. In response, we launched our Mama Simba (“Mother of lions”) programme in Westgate Community Conservancy. Through Mama Simba, women who have had very little exposure to conservation issues are provided with the knowledge and skills they need to reduce their environmental impact, improve livelihoods, and help conserve and coexist with wildlife.

Why Women?
Samburu women are typically responsible for their household. Due to their 
role fetching firewood and water, maintaining the homestead and tending to livestock, they are central users and managers of natural resources and also frequently come into contact with wildlife. When elders and warriors are away with cattle during the dry season, women often remain within the village. Consequently, they often have to deal with human-carnivore conflict first-hand should a predator attack livestock inside their village at night. Yet, despite the important role they play, Samburu women have rarely been included in conservation activities in northern Kenya.

How it works
Through Mama Simba, Ewaso Lions is working with local women in a number of ways. We have a core group of 19 women, led by our incredible Mama Simba Coordinators – Munteli & Mparasaroi. The ladies work closely with other women from their communities – spreading conservation message to their peers. They also now constantly report sightings of lions and even conflict incidents, increasing our network of informants.

Mama Simba ladies at the Ewaso Lions Camp (with camp dog Kura)

Activities within the Mama Simba programme include:

  • Women’s Education Initiative

In August 2013, we started a women’s education initiative with 10 women from Sasaab village. The ladies spent their Saturday’s at the local pre-school learning how to read, write and do arithmetic. By 2016, however, the ladies were not content with just weekly classes and built their own “bush school”, which they attend four days a week. Following expansion of the programme into three new locations in 2016, we also established a second school in Lempaute village, which runs every Sunday. Acquiring literacy not only facilitates the ladies’ participation in conservation-based activities, but also empowers them in other aspects of their life, including their beadwork, food and livestock trade businesses.

Munteli, Mama Simba Coordinator, teaches ladies at their “Bush School” (Photo by Jillian Knox)

  • Beadwork Enterprise

Samburu women have exceptional skill when it comes to traditional beadwork. Through our beadwork enterprise we are working with a small group of women to make authentic beaded lion figurines, a new concept for the area. These new handicrafts provide the ladies with supplementary income. Although a relatively small amount, the extra income can make a big difference to the women, especially during the dry season when it is hard to sell goats in order to obtain the money needed to buy food.

Beaded lion made by Mama Simba ladies at Sasaab village

  • Conservation Training and Wildlife Safaris

Women in our area have extremely limited exposure to conservation issues. Ewaso Lions provides workshops for women on the importance of conservation, identifying wildlife by their tracks, and safe herding practices. In addition, we take women on game drives into the National Reserve, so they can enjoy wildlife up-close and safely.

Ladies on a wildlife safari

  • Litter Removal & Recycling

Samburu women regularly buy staples such as sugar, tea and maize from local shops. The items always come packaged in plastic or thin nylon bags. There are no waste disposal or recycling services here. So, the bags – along with other waste items – are often burned or discarded in the bush or around the manyattas, where livestock and wildlife may ingest them. In addition to organising clean-up campaigns in local communities, we are also working with the Mama Simba ladies to find a longer-term solution to waste management in Westgate.

Mama Simba ladies in their coloured “shukas” (Photo by Jillian Knox)

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> Mama Simba is supported by World Women Work