By: Carroll Phillips
Next Mike Watson, Lewa's CEO, came to our camp and talked to us about the message Lewa wants to convey, what message visitors take home, and how important it is to have good relationships with surrounding communities and the Kenyan government. For example, Lewa provides numerous jobs for people in the nearby communities who in return pass on tips they hear about poachers, helping to protect and conserve Lewa. On the other hand, the Kenyan government adds a bigger support system so together it and Lewa can more easily protect the land and continue conservation. As Mike Watson repeatedly stated "it's all about people and relationships" and that's how Lewa can work so successfully.
We then left and visited a woman named Purity who talked to our group about the Manyangalo project. The Manyangalo project through Lewa provides communities water to grow crops and introduces them to new technologies in agriculture such as the drip water system. Their main focus is providing people with water, but they also help ensure locals have a feeling of ownership over the water so that they will feel responsible for it and maintain it. The Manyangalo project has helped with not only providing water, but also teaching people how to be more independent so they are not as reliant on Lewa.
We then continued onto discussing micro lending which provides loans between $100-$5,000 to a woman or group of women to start their own businesses. They also provide advice and help with planning so the business is successful. Micro lending has helped in empowering women and a cultural shift away from traditional husband-wife roles so now more women are able to make money and support their family. Men know about and support their wife's business which was unexpected for us to hear since the change for women to make as much or even more money than their husband is a hard shift for most men. If the woman can't pay back loan in 3 years 3 months then the time to pay the money back is extended and they pay later. Groups of women taking loans split up the loan and check on each other, holding one another accountable for paying their portion of the loan. Therefore micro lending program doesn't have to check on specific people and has a good built in safety mechanism. It was clear from when we met with the women and went to a shop, farm, and butcher that they were all empowered and want their daughters to do even better.
We then went shopping for souvenirs and relaxed sipping coffee and tea during a rainstorm at Wilderness, one of Lewa's lodges. We spent a lot of time sitting and chatting with Karmushu, the head of Wilderness and discussed his job, where he comes from, and the importance about what Lewa does for the community. This was followed by watching the sunset at the top of pombe rocks with drinks and snacks and then a leopard sighting on the way back to camp. We concluded our last full day with an authentic Kenyan dinner and sitting around the campfire together.