Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony

Fellowship with the Farm Shop Trust and Maasi warrior induction in Kenya

The Farm Shop QH team and fellows
The Farm Shop Trust headquarters team and fellows

Supporting Futures Entrepreneurship Centre’s key pillars of entrepreneurialism and global thinking Amber Strong and three other fellows volunteered at the Farm Shop Trust’s headquarters in Kiambu County, Nairobi, Kenya for six weeks. Working on behalf of Plymouth University and Duchy College on a project involving Comic Relief and part funded by the Seale Hayne Educational Trust the team consisted of myself, Amber Strong (Business and Entrepreneurship) a representative of Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre, Liam Moore (IT) student at Plymouth University, Claire Reigate (Animal Health), from Duchy College, and Morwenna Roberts (Horticulture) a student from Duchy College. The aims of the project’s trip were to support the Farm Shop Trust in creating the framework for a shop assistant training programme and assisting in infrastructure development. This is due to the Farm Shop Trust’s rapid expansion that will continue to take place over the next year. The overall aim is to help around 100,000 farming households out of poverty in Kenya’s Kiambu county and adjacent areas.

Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony
Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony

During the five and a half week fellowship with Farm Shop I interviewed farmers and Farm Shop franchisees, developed case studies from this data, surveyed franchisees, conducted a focus group involving female franchisees, assessed Farm Shop’s supply chain and developed a list of minimum requirements for a shop assistant training programme. Farm Shop staff were also taught how to write blog articles and how to use the Farm Shop WordPress blog so that it continues to reflect Farm Shop’s work.

Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony
Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony

Myself and the other fellows were also very lucky to be able to spend a weekend visiting a Maasi village just past Magadi where Dr. Robert Newbery had previous researched entrepreneurialism within the Olakirimatian group ranch. They had the opportunity to witness part of a Maasi warrior induction ceremony that was taking place around our host Michael’s house or boda. This type of event only happens every seven to ten years and may not happen again on such a scale because of how the traditional way of life is changing for many Maasi.

Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony
Farm Shop fellows and Maasi boys at the warrior induction ceremony

The fellows camped near the village for day two and three of the five day celebration in a ‘backyard’  that was just bare shrub-land about 50 yards from the river bank and around 2000 yards from Michael’s house. There were around three hundred, eight to fourteen year old boys participating in the ceremony (some having walked six days to get there) and around a thousand Maasi gathered for the event. At the end of the event the Massi boys would be circumcised and become Barahns. After this the fellows were told that most of the boys will tend herds of cattle and goats in the surrounding scrub land for several years before they are allowed to marry.

Michaels first wife (dressed in brown and white), their first born son Roderick and another female member of Michael's large family
Michaels first wife (dressed in brown and white), their first born son Roderick and another female member of Michael’s large family

According to Dr. Robert Newbery; entrepreneurship is regarded by many in contemporary society as a ‘silver bullet’ that can improve national economic development, create wealth for individuals and even help alleviate poverty. However, it’s arguable whether it is a tool that is inseparable from modern economic systems or a phenomenon that occurs in different guises within other social orders. The Maasai living within the boundaries of the Olakirimatian group ranch in Kenya offer a unique natural experiment to explore the impact of culture on entrepreneurial behaviour. Here half of the available land is used purely for the common grazing of cattle (the old system) and small parcels of land from the other half are granted to householders when they come of age to use as they will. A number of them use the land to grow commercial crops, others rent out the land to incomers, whilst a number do nothing at all with the land. This context allows Plymouth University and Duchy College to explore the entrepreneurial behaviour of these householders as they operate within both old and new socio-economic systems. Research here has been supported by the Faculty of Business and SERC.

Michael and his family after they presented us with shukas before we left
Michael and his extended family after they presented us with shukas before we left

Our trip to Kenya has been incredible and filled with so many welcoming and very talented people. I hope our efforts assist Farm Shop’s infrastructure to develop so that they can provide training to even more farmers, shop assistants and franchisees; providing individuals and their communities with the skills and knowledge to improve their futures.

I abolutely love this photo because it seems to capture a moment of communication

If you would like to know more about Futures Entrepreneurship Centre’s key pillars, the Farm Shop Trust or Robert Newbery’s research with the Maasi please contact me at amber.strong@plymouth.ac.uk 

Amber Strong -Network Advisor in Entrepreneurship
Amber Strong -Network Advisor in Entrepreneurship

 

Related posts in our Farm Shop Kenya Series:

Grace Mweru’s Farm Shop launch at Murera, Kenya

Interview:  Dr. Robert Newbery, lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Development

Maize farming demonstrations with the Farm Shop Trust near Ngecha, Kenya

Farming within Kenyan Households

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