There has been talk that being a pastoralist in this day and age is unsustainable, but Hollywood actor Edward Norton thinks otherwise.
He is of the opinion that Maasais who reside around the Chyulu Hills need to stick to their ancient nomadic ways not only for their own survival, but for the survival of a large chunk of the human race.
Norton, of The Hulk and Italian Job fame, is in Kenya at the moment in his capacity as President of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT).
He explained to me that most people don’t know the importance of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem to the rest of the country, and how the untouched migration routes between the national parks have managed to keep that ecosystem thriving. That is what MWCT is trying to preserve.
“There is a threat now. Because of the recent drought, a lot of the local community has resorted to farming and this could well destroy that ecosystem. It’s very serious,” he said.
The award-winning actor’s presence here, also being a UN goodwill ambassador, is meant to reenergise conservation efforts for the outstanding biodiversity in that area.
Through the MWCT, which is just about two years old, they have already begun linking professional conservationists with dynamic young Maasai leaders to show local communities that they can ‘thrive, and not just survive, by managing their ecosystem wisely’.
According to the Trust, the Maasai communities there own all of the land between the protected National Parks and within this land lies habitat reserves, forests that are carbon sinks and rivers and springs that supply the fresh water to more than 7 million people in Kenya, including Mombasa.
The MWCT is trying to rope in Brand Kenya and are even scheduled to meet with Tourism Minister Najib Balala, to entreat them to be a part of this long term cause.
Last year, some of the young Maasai leaders who are key partners of this trust ran alongside Norton at the New York Marathon and managed to raise about $1.2 million for the projects and programs run by MWCT.
“I’m not running this year, but we are hoping to raise some more funds,” says Norton, who has family in Kenya. His passion for the project is evident when he chats about the Chyulu Hills and the precious environment it sustains.
Apart from education and health programs, MWCT funds lease payments for conservancy zones, carbon credits, payments for watershed protection, sustainable eco-tourism, wildlife monitoring and security, conservation and tourism employment.