As I prepare to leave the country, I want to introduce you and all of VI supporters to Ramsom Karmushu, the leader of the new Maasai Youth Group on IL Ngwesi Group Ranch in Northern Kenya. I met Ramsom last March at the Pastoralist meeting, and he helped guide our group on the tour of the Ranch. He showed us the wildlife, and some of their innovative grazing management which utilize traditional animal movement to protect fragile grasslands.
Ramsom is a 26 year old Maasai man with a great interest in improving life for his people. He was an excellent guide because of his vast knowledge of the local plants and animals, and he taught me to distinguish between elephant, rhino, buffalo, and zebra scat, based on the food fibers left inside.
The Maasai group ranches are pockets of intense poverty and isolation, and Kenya’s recent prosperity has not touched them. They are similar to reservations in the American West, where Native Americans were forced to settle in the 19th century. In Kenya, the Maasai relied on herding cattle across the continent, following the rains, but the government forced them to settle on the most arid and least productive land.
Ramsom is 26 years old, and his only employment option is to take his father’s livestock out to graze every day. He was a brilliant student, but could not afford to continue his education. He has worked as a volunteer on many projects, including the wildlife and environment project in the community. He organized the Youth Group to encourage children to stay in school, and also to find opportunities for them to earn income by raising goats.
He has talked to the young people, and recruited a group eager to partner with Vets International to help vaccinate dogs against rabies, and to raise their goats. They range in age from 12-30 years, and include graduates, school dropouts and those motivated to improve their lives.
Ramsom invited me to visit IL Ngwesi, to meet the youth and learn about their lives and aspirations. As we communicated through email, I realized that transportation is a major issue, and there is no public transport on “the Rez,” and the households are widely dispersed. I rented a vehicle so I would be able to travel about, to meet the youth, the community officials, the government veterinarian, vet supply stores, and the director of the wildlife program.
I look forward to seeing my young friend Ramsom again, and learning how Vets International can work with the eager but inexperienced group of young people to make life better for both people and animals. I will see whether I remember how to recognize elephant dung this time!