In late 2008 Maasailand Preservation Trust was approached by the eight Maasai elders selected to educate the next generation of warriors – across the entire Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem – to their role in Maasai culture and how they are expected to behave in the 21st century. This turnover in generations and the education of the new warriors occurs only once every twelve years or so.
“Because of the compensation we have received from PCF in recent years and how that has changed our way of thinking,” their spokesman told an MPT trustee, “we would like to teach this new age-set of warriors to never kill lions . . . to never kill any wildlife.”
What these elders were telling MPT, incredibly, was that – for the first time ever – the communities of Amboseli-Tsavo were prepared to teach their next generation of warriors – 8,000 young men across the ecosystem – that their future way of life was going to be far more about conservation of wildlife and habitat than the killing of lions. MPT’s highly successful project, the Predator Compensation Fund, that provides payment to livestock owners when lions and other predators kill them, has made this opportunity possible.
The “fathers of the warriors”, as they are known, are called Menye Layiok in the Maa language. And that is the name of MPT’s project to — for the first time — assist a Maasai community of approx 70,000 individuals to write a new chapter in their history and stop the killing of lions possibly forever – right in the historic cradle of the lion’s existence.
“To preserve our culture and live successfully in the 21st century,” a highly respected elder said at the first Menye Layiok meeting in June 2009, “there are things we must leave behind. Killing lions is one of those things.”
What the elders have proposed instead is competitions between the various warrior “manyattas” (their warrior village for the period of their warriorhood) to prove bravery and leadership, test warrior skills, yet learn vital skills and knowledge to prepare them better for the uncertainties of the future. Subjects are to include ecology, conservation economics, preservation of habitat, and better livestock husbandry, among other things.
MPT is prepared to travel down this unknown road with these “fathers of the warriors” and these 8,000 young men who are facing a world far more complex than even the previous generation faced. A world in which pressures to make a living and preserve critical resources like land, water, trees, grass, and livestock must be considered in the context of pressures and threats never before imagined.
There is no present sponsor for this project, which will involve education meetings, the creation of educational materials, and the facilitation of competitions on Maasai culture and conservation, as well as the introduction of organized sports as a test of leadership and skill.
A “Maasai Olympics” is being planned in which warriors will test themselves against their peers in spear throwing, running, and jumping, skills of an Olympic nature that also define the Maasai warrior. Prizes will be given and the winning “manyatta” will receive a prize bull for breeding and upgrading the quality of their cattle, a rare treasure.
There is much more to say about this project and its history so far. This is only an introduction.
Are you interested in helping MPT to fund this project? Please let us know now.
And give us your thoughts about how best to make this initiative successful.
Menye Layiok is the chance to remove lion killing from the culture of the Maasai forever – through their own elders’ vision and leadership — and, in its place, provide education and other forms of competition far better suited to the survival of the Maasai culture and their pastoralist way of life in the 21st century.
We do not know where this initiative will lead – as no one has been in this position before, to our knowledge. Please join us on this important “safari” into new cultural territory that is intended to benefit the Maasai people, to preserve their way of life and their land, and to conserve and protect the highly-threatened great mammals of this Earth.