COCOBA, or Community Conservation Banking, is a microfinance initiative designed to teach Maasai women to open small, environmentally-friendly businesses. The initial training will help the women learn to create a COCOBA saving and lending group and how to run it, ensuring the sustainability of the groups. From there, a third of the women will have beadwork training, a third will learn bee-keeping, and a third will learn leather tanning.

The beading training will help the women design a set of styles for their beadwork that are the most marketable. They will learn what styles tourists like to purchase, what colors are best, and how to make their jewelry the highest quality possible. They will also learn the best pricing structure for their pieces, and that it is not always advantageous to set the prices as high as they can without considering the possible volume of purchase at lower prices.

The women learning bee-keeping will be provided with hives and protective wear. They will be taught to start and maintain a hive, as well as how to harvest and package the honey and honeycomb. They also may learn to make additional beeswax products. The goal is to sell their products to other local people, which helps diversify the local market instead of just targeting their business at tour companies.

Livestock is the major source of wealth for the Maasai, so leather tanning is a natural business for these women to learn. They will learn to tan the leather and to produce finished products with it, some with beadwork, for sale in both the local and tourist market.

As the COCOBA initiative moves forward, we will be monitoring the groups’ progress as well as evaluating the results of the program. We will keep you posted!