Dennis Ole Sonkoi

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Dennis Ole Sonkoi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
Dennis is raising incomes and preserving culture in the pastoralist Maasai community of Kenya and Tanzania by helping the Maasai turn their most valuable local resources, their livestock and their land, into viable enterprises that can sustain their way of life and their environment.
The Maasai used to be self-sufficient, living off their livestock and selling them only as necessary. However, the growing frequency of droughts and disease, combined with the encroachment of other communities around their land, has killed off more than half of the Maasai’s livestock in the last 15 years and forced changes in lifestyle and livelihood that are threatening both their traditional culture and their natural environment.
To end this destructive trend, Dennis is developing a series of interventions that take the very cornerstone of their threatened culture, cattle and livestock, and turns it into a method of survival through proper support and training programs. He is developing an animal health infrastructure to protect livestock from disease, organizing the community for better market access, and giving economic value to the environment which is otherwise endangered by the need for more land. The sustainable business that results, including an ecotourism component, is keeping young Maasai on their land and increasing the community’s prospects for the future. A critical component of his work is shifting mindsets so the Maasai see their livestock as an economic opportunity rather than a basic means of survival.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You