Press Releases Shompole

Worldaware Business Awards Recognises Unique Eco-tourist project

Shompole is an upmarket safari destination with a difference. Art of Ventures have established this beautiful lodge in Kenya with a novel shareholding agreement with the local Maasai community. It is a worthy winner of The Trade Partners Award for Small Businesses in Africa and was described by judges as 'an imaginative, even inspiring, entry.'

The Worldaware Business Awards, now in their 14th year, recognise projects which have contributed to the development of poorer countries through innovative and sustainable commercial activities. Art of Ventures exemplifies these ideals with a central concept - that in order for communities and conservation to prosper, they must be integrated fully into the commerce tied to their place and their resources.

"Shompole and Art of Ventures are very honoured to receive the Award from Worldaware. The exposure and recognition it will receive are vital to the continuation of the partnership between the Maasai Community and Art of Ventures, with Shompole Lodge becoming the first lodge to involve the entrepreneurial realities of the tourism industry and genuine community-business partnership, says Anthony Russell.

"The future of "conservation" lies in the mutually beneficial partnership between community participation and commercial value to wildlife and wildlife areas, and building a capacity within the community for these principles to be sustainable. Shompole and Art of Ventures will continue to work together to help conserve their land, their wildlife, and will hopefully lead the way to more successful community-business partnerships throughout both Kenya and Africa as a continent."

The lodge opened in February 2002. The Shompole Maasai own 30 per cent, in view of their contribution of land, a spring and materials. The plan is that, by reinvesting their earnings, they will raise this to 80 per cent in 15 years.

Shompole is on the Tanzanian border, three hours' drive south-west of Nairobi. It supports an estimated 6,500 people, and covers a section of the Rift Valley between two flamingo-rich soda lakes, Magadi and Natron. It boasts grassland, acacia woodland, papyrus swamp, glistening white salt pans and - along the river - fig forest.

Anthony Russell's first step was to persuade the Shompole people to set aside a sixth of their ranch as a conservation area where they would not graze their cattle and goats except in extreme circumstances. The European Union has backed this with $190,000, which is being used to build a road through swampland, equip and pay 25 local people as game rangers and educate the community about conservation.

The relative safety of the conservation area has already attracted a herd of 85 elephants. The area's existence helps reduce conflict between wild and domestic animals: fewer goats now fall victim to lions. Since no one is supposed to walk through the area, there is less opportunity for poaching. Antelopes, ant-eaters, baboons, monkeys, cheetahs, giraffe (under threat elsewhere in Kenya), leopards, lions, pythons, ostrich, zebra and over 300 kinds of bird live on the ranch, the Maasai having little interest in killing game for meat.

Shompole people have earned $15,000 helping to build the tourist lodge that artfully combines river rock, grass thatch and wood with smooth white walls. Guests sleep in high canopied tents for two with muslin shade-cloth sides, under huge thatched roofs designed to reflect the silhouette of nearby mountains. Rooms have simple furniture, made by Maasai craftsmen, and each room has a cool pool. Spring water flows through the main mess, feeds the main swimming pool and runs on to a watering hole for animals. Power is largely sun-generated.

Forty-two Maasai have wage-earning jobs, as waiters, cooks, room stewards and guides, which they never had before. AoV brought in skilled roofers from the coast who have taught young locals their trade, enabling them to roof their own homes and earn money roofing other people's. A beadwork business has been started with a group of Maasai women, who now have a new status, their work being sold both in the lodge shop and abroad. Pools have been built for fish-farming. Other income-earning possibilities for local people include bee-keeping, furniture-making and the sale of dried meat and tomatoes.

Art of Ventures plans to set up more lodges similar to Shompole and hopes that other enterprises will follow its lead, creating a network in different areas.

For further information:
Shompole/Art of Ventures
Worldaware: Helen Triggs 020 7603 8574 Sally Canty 02380 283255

Note to editors

Worldaware is a UK charity which aims to promote the widest understanding of global development issues, their importance and the interdependence of today's world.

The Worldaware Awards recognise both large and small businesses and institutions. They were established 14 years ago and have become a sought after source of recognition by companies, organisations and institutions involved in sustainable commercial and educational projects.