The Koiyaki Guiding School

Project LocationNarok District, Kenya
Project TypeCommunity conservation initiatives
Endangered SpeciesWild dog cheetah, black rhino
Land Area Protected1680 km2
Benefiting Locally15,600
Schools Supported4 (including the guide school)

Koiyaki Guide School

The Koiyaki Guiding School is situated on the Koiyaki Group Ranch neighbouring the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southern Kenya. The school was established in 2005 with the help of Tusk to educate the local Maasai in the tourism industry and other nature based enterprises, thereby providing employment opportunities and promoting and encouraging the long-term conservation of the unique Maasai Mara ecosystem.

At a time when group ranches in the Mara region are being privatised and tenure is shifting from group to individual ownership, there is now intense pressure to break down this internationally important region into small pockets of land for alternative uses, including agriculture and settlement. Already the spread of human settlement into prime wildlife habitats has reduced the animal population and distribution of predators in the area. Bush fires, poaching for meat, illegal tree cutting and small-scale farming are all on the rise. The Koiyaki Guiding School has been formed by the community in an attempt to halt this decline and to educate their own Maasai youth about the importance of the Mara ecosystem, and how, by taking a holistic approach to conservation, the region can be managed for the mutual benefit of the community and its wildlife.

Koiyaki Guide School and Wilderness Camp

The school was built with initial funding from the European Union Biodiversity Conservation Programme and Tusk. The school’s annual intake of 24 students must complete a year’s course which includes every aspect of guiding from ecology, to camp management and first aid. Every year approximately 85% of students receive bursaries from key hotels and camp operators in the Mara who have recognized the huge need for employing local Maasai (traditionally 80% of guides come from elsewhere in Kenya) and the positive contribution it can make to safeguard the future of the Mara and its tourism industry.

Last year, the project embarked on the construction and opening of the Koiyaki Wilderness Camp, which is located within walking distance of the Guiding School. The affiliated education orientated eco-camp has two important roles; firstly to give the trainee guides hands on experience with camp management and provide crucial work experience. Secondly, the Wilderness Camp will ultimately finance and provide long-term financial security for the Guiding School. The local community is also a direct beneficiary of the revenue generated by the camp – further demonstrating the benefits of eco-tourism and conservation towards their future prosperity.

Tusk Support

Tusk has supported the Koiyaki Guiding School since its inception providing essential funding towards its annual operating costs, water tanks, instructor salaries and equipment. Furthermore, Tusk has acted as a charitable conduit for a number of international donors who have sponsored the student bursaries. From the outset, Tusk was impressed by the commitment of the Koiyaki Lemek community, which pledged five million Kenya shillings as a contribution from their safari viewing fees to help finance the building of the School and the Wilderness Camp.

Notes from the field
The school has sent the right message to our grassroots communities on how to look after the wildlife and its habitats through creating qualified guides who can now compete for jobs in a competitive tourism industry. The education that has been acquired from the school has opened more doors for future Maasai generations, which is what the world economy is all about. Education is the best way forward for the Maasai people who are proud of their history and culture but who, again, have to adapt as the world changes and less land is available for people to make a living from cattle.
Jackson Looseyia, Rekero Camp
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