When tourist Rantal Deschamps landed in Loitokitok in search of Kenya’s wild dogs, she had no idea she will fall in un-ending love for the local Maasai community.
Deschamps, who hails from Vichy, France, is a retired college teacher who read a lot about wild dogs, and in her retirement, she made a reality her date with Kenya in 2008.
While in the country, she traveled to the wild south of Loitokitok in an attempt to see what she has been reading about the wild dogs.
As if her creator, in the heavens, heard her dreams, Deschamps, while on the road she bumped into a pack of jovial wild dogs and her camera was ready at hand. She did what she loved best.
On the evening of that eventful day, Deschamps had a conversation with a guide in the lodge they were staying with other guests.
He told her he wished to have a look at the photos of the wild dogs she had taken earlier. From there the two exchanged e-mails with the guide, and that is how her connection started in reality with Kenya.
The guide was Stephen Lekatoo, who is a naturalist, a Voyager Safari guide at Camp Ziwani in Tsavo West National Park.
Lekatoo and Deschamps kept their correspondence regular after the retired college teacher went back home in France.
Deschamps says Lekatoo, a local Maasai, told her many stories about his culture and there and she got “hooked” as they say in her country.
She started reading everything on the subject and event went ahead to contact experts on the Maasai to know about the people she has come to adore so much.
Deschamps, while I was interviewing her, could not hide her fascination for the love of the Maasai.
Fast forward rewind: In 2012 Deschamps, along with her other friends in France created Maasai Horizon after a well was drilled in the village of Olgirra, Loitokitok.
Olgirra is about 300km from Nairobi to the south of Rift Valley and about 40 km from Loitokitok as you head to Rombo.
It regroups several villages scattered in the bushes of Loitokitok.
In 2010, after a terrible drought that struck Kenya and dealt a blow to the pastoralist communities in Kajiado, Deschamps started talking Lekatoo about the problem of water in Loitokitok.
She learned that she lost half of his cattle to the damning drought and his wife walks 8 km every day fetch water from a river used by livestock and wild animals as well.
“It was this foul water that was used to drink, cook food. I felt that water was not good for humanity as it is already contaminated by baboons that come to bathe on the same. It could be a recipe for a disease outbreak in the area,” says Deschamps.
She went on: “I kept repeating to myself that water is running from our tap in France. I wrote to several contacts in Kenya requesting for cost, the number of people concerned. I contacted non-governmental organizations working in Kajiado South and I manage to convince 34 donors that came to the rescue of the people of Olgirra”.
Deschamps now says since 2011, about 80 people have enjoyed a well in their village. Since the well started serving the local people, cholera and typhoid have been eradicated in the village, she adds.
Meanwhile, while Deschamps was working out how she could assist the people of Olgirra, she also in talks with her colleagues who informed them of her discoveries.
Among them, she says were; secondary school teachers of English, Legal Science, Economic and Company Management, and nurse and retired accounting secretary.
Her story, which was a fact and reflected what was a reality on the ground in Kenya, touched many souls back in France.
She told them of the fate of a noble pastoral people, confined to reservations after the 2009 drought destroyed their livestock and their impoverished families getting poorer.
On the other hand, she says, she was also concerned about the fate of the young girls who excised at puberty, then married off in the following weeks to a man who is often twice their age.
After gestation of four years, Maasai Horizon Association was born on January 12, 2012 with its objective being to help families in the fields of education and health in Rombo Division.
Other objectives include; defending and protecting children’s rights regarding female genital mutilation and forced marriages, finding out solutions to water shortage and cooperating with like-minded organisations to seek solution to other local problems.
Already, a branch of Maasai Horizon called Olai Lelai Le Maa has been in existence from 2012. It was created by 14 women in Olgirra.
The association, officially registered in Kenya, is composed of a president, a treasurer and secretary.
According to Lekatoo, the women in the group are a unifying element around which Maasai Horizon is organized.
They are in charge of manufacturing ornaments that they sell in France, and the profit from the sales is spread in percentages of actions conducted by Maasai Horizon (20 per cent) and Olai Lelai Le Maa group (80 per cent).
Manufacturing ornaments aims towards education. Lekatoo says the 80 per cent are invested in community projects.
Deschamps is thanking Amref for providing Olgirra villagers with water pump to be used in their well.
On the list of achievements, Maasai Horizon has funded the construction of two toilets, food provision to drought-affected families in Olgirra.
Maasai Horizon has also put up a dispensary for the community in Olgirra.
The purpose of the dispensary is to lower infant mortality rate from 60 to 7/1000 in Rombo. In France it is 3,3/1000.
The neighbourhood establishment allows emergency care, especially immediate infusion of dehydrated children.
It also lowers mortality rate at birth both for mothers and babies. A large number of Maasai women still give birth on their own at home.