Crafting Change: Kenyan Women Beading for Wildlife Coexistence

Posted March 8, 2024 by Bailey Cadena

The Cincinnati Zoo has learned how to be conservationists by following the lead of experts who coexist with wildlife, the South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO).  

SORALO is in the South Rift Region of Kenya. In this area of Kenya, wildlife (such as elephants and lions) and people coexist sharing the same spaces and resources. Wildlife are still able to move freely across the landscape and by doing so enhance the connectivity between Mara-Serengeti and Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystems. SORALO is working to ensure this remains the case.    

The women in this landscape are vital to maintaining the culture of the Maasai. In supporting the traditional lifestyle of the Maasai, you are supporting wildlife conservation. 

“The Olkiramatian Reto Women’s group is made up of 210 women that are mainly makers of beaded ornaments, since this is our tradition as Maasai. We make beaded ornaments for our own use and also for sale,” says the leader of this group Chairlady Sirote ene Tipatet.  

Chairlady Tipatet
Chairlady Tipatet

The women’s group has partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo & the SSA Group to expand their market for these beadwork sales. Their goal is to raise more income streams to support conservation efforts within their community towards sustainable livelihoods. 

The Chairlady has shared “if we are able to increase the sale of beads it will help us not only support our families but also preserve our culture in generations to come.” 

By buying beads here or by coming to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and visiting our gift shop, you are supporting these women, their families, and the wildlife they live alongside daily.  

All funds generated will go back to the women of Olkiramatian Reto Women’s Group, who will decide how to use the funds to support their community. In the past 10 years, they have paid the school fees of 100 children. These funds also help to support their enterprise and other family needs in this rural landscape to enable the sustainability of their culture and coexistence with wildlife.  

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