In 2001, a terrible drought persisted for several years in Kenya and brought devastation to the pasture lands. The livelihood of the indigenous Maasai disappeared as their cattle died.
The men had to drive the few remaining cattle hundreds of miles away in search of better grazing. The women left behind looked desperately for ways to feed, clothe, and educate their children and obtain medical supplies.
Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai in East Africa, wanted to provide their neighbors with work opportunities. They came up with an imaginative idea to combine the excellent beading abilities of the Maasai women with a readily available, sustainable resource- GRASS- as the primary element.
The reed-like grass was dried, cut into bead-size pieces, dyed with environmentally-friendly textile dyes, and strung on durable elastic with hand-blown Czech glass beads. Mobile work stations were set up so the women could bring their babies and toddlers with them and work when they chose.
As word passed through the Maasai community, women started walking as much as two hours each way to have their first chance to earn money. Fifteen years later, the women are part of a thriving business that guarantees them long-term jobs, fair wages, access to health care, and schools for themselves and their children.
To see our full collection of Zulugrass jewelry, click here.