Action for Cheetahs in Kenya
We are proud to support the COOL Craft products that directly support communities and conservation efforts in Kenya through the conservation group: Action for Cheetahs.
Safari West has participated in a pilot launch of COOL Craft products since 2011. The artists develop unique items under the theme of cheetah, Otter, Owl andLion that not only represents a diversity of artists’ talents, but also the diversity of wildlife found in Kenya. The artist group members are empowered through business training to develop an alternative livelihood. The handcrafted items such as jewelry, woodcarvings, beaded bowls, and utensils reflect unique local styles. COOL Craft artists conduct “green business” – using locally available, renewable and recycled materials such as recycled wine bottles, wood, wool, sisal, metals, leather, banana leaves, camel bone, cow horn, and seeds. For example, the artists working with wood and seeds use the jacaranda tree (Jacaranca mimosifolia) which is a decorative, fast-growing species that is found and planted in nearly every village. The “junk” jewelry line uses a variety of discarded items and broken beads.
Tourism is Kenya’s second largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture, forming 13.7% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2011. However, populations of the very animals that visitors travel to Kenya to see continue to decline. Unless directly involved in the tourism industry, rural communities who live in close proximity to native wildlife derive little financial benefit from it and often perceive wildlife as a threat to crops and livestock. Within Kenya, demand for crafts within the tourism sector is high but profits are meager since the market is flooded with cheaply made items sold at low prices. Craftspeople throng around tourist vehicles seeking to sell handmade crafts for meager profits. Others attend special craft markets that attract local buyers and international visitors. Commercial production floods the Kenyan market with cheaply made items at low prices stifling the artist’s own creativity in order to meet the prevailing market demand. Few artists are financially rewarded for taking the time to produce unique and high-quality products for sale at traditional markets and the lack of individual resources prevents them from tapping into the international market.
The COOL Craft business is unique because it is driven by conservationists who understand that the best way of conserving wildlife is through community appreciation and financial gains from living with wildlife. Negative views of wildlife are pervasive in rural communities because few people benefit from wildlife. Coupled with poverty, negative attitudes often lead to illegal poaching and other activities harmful to wildlife. By increasing the demand for quality products made in community groups, COOL Crafts provides alternative jobs for individuals who may otherwise become caught up in illegal activities. Unsustainable use of resources and poaching might give people instant financial gain, but by promoting the use of renewable and recycled products that show the beauty of Kenya, COOL Crafts give the community and the world a better understanding of what is needed to sustain the environment for future generations.