What do a Maasai girl and Elephants have in common?
So do Naserian and the elephants she shares her land with have something in common?
How? It is quite simple.
Last March, Luigina and Elio Bernini visited Campi ya Kanzi. Luigina is a self-made woman, running a high-tech composite materials company. She is very sensitive to the need for equal opportunities for women.
While on safari with us, she asked what normal life is like for a Maasai girl. Once we explained it, she was very determined to support our education program. She offered a scholarship to the best-performing girl in the Maasai reservation that we partner with.
Her name is Naserian ("the one who helps," in Maa) Lerindo. It was March, and the school year had already started. Earlier in the year, her dad, willing to see his smart daughter going to high school, sold 40 of the 50 goats he owned. When we approached him and said we had a donor offering a merit scholarship, he could not believe it.
Naserian was accepted to Naisula, a very good private school in the outskirts of Nairobi. The school is providing the trust that we support, Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT), with huge discounts to send our best students there.
Naserian's father is now the strongest paladin of MWCT. He has organized several community meetings, explaining how his girl has been sent to school by elephants. Yes, that what Naserian's father thinks and says: his daughter is in school thanks to elephants and other wildlife, therefore the Maasai ought to protect them.
Human-Wildlife Conflict is a major issue in a wilderness ecosystem like ours. We were very saddened earlier in September to hear that a Maasai lost his life to an elephant. The unlucky man had a little bit too much beer and, while wondering at night near the spring, he got killed by an elephant. We were of course dismayed by the loss of a human life and at the same time very worried about the retaliation we were expecting.
Naserian's dad took care of it: he went all over the reservation saying, "My daughter is in school today thanks to elephants. We need to protect them. It is not the elephant's fault if you wonder out at night and have too much pombe (alcohol). Drink it in your boma (home) and leave the elephants alone."
This is a good story for Africa and for the elephants. While in the rest of the continent these magnificent mammals are slaughtered for their ivory, here they are protected, as they send girls to school...
Thank you, Luigina: you have sent Naserian to school, and, without knowing, you are saving elephants too.