2008 Finalist Projects

Maasai Production

The Leakey Collection - Kenya

The Leakey Collection gives Maasai women a sustainable income - without interrupting their traditional way of life.

In 2001 the Maasai communities of East Africa lost nearly three quarters of their cattle in a devastating drought. Hundreds of women were left to fend for themselves and their children while the men took their remaining livestock to look for better grazing. Some of the women turned for support to landowners Philip and Katy Leakey, who ended up feeding over a hundred families. To help the Maasai in the longer term, the Leakeys decided to help the women earn an income from their traditional jewellery making skills.

The raw material for the jewellery is an abundant native grass. The stalks are dried, coloured and chopped into bead-like pieces. These beads are then given to the women to assemble into jewellery. The women work outside, in their own settlements - working conditions that complement the lifestyle of the Maasai. As Philip explains, "We tried to design a system that doesn't interrupt the lifestyles of the Maasai people. We try to make our business fit their lifestyle rather than try to change our lifestyle to suit our business."

While the production methods are traditional, the jewellery itself is designed for international markets - the Maasai themselves think its subtle colours are in rather bad taste! Helped by the world-famous Leakey name - Philip is a son of renowned paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey - the Leakey collection is sold in more than 2000 shops in 20 countries.

If you can see this message you need to download the latest Flash Player.
Click here to download.

You also need to have JavaScript enabled