The Kuku Project

About the Author

Paul Thomson worked with African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi for a year before moving to Washington D.C. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul… More

The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is a lodge so incredible that it can easily overshadow everything else. But after my visit to the lodge, I passed by a small project that really grabbed my attention: The Kuku Project by the women of Nkiloriti.

When AWF approached the Maasai women of the Nkiloriti Group Ranch about setting up a women’s group, they opted not for beads or cultural manyattas. “We want to do eggs,” they said. With the new lodge just over the hill, the 30 or so women decided they could make a good business selling fresh kuku (chicken) eggs.

The Nkiloriti women are finding good business in kukus.

AWF, not exactly experts in the chicken business, went to the logical place for help: Kenchic, the ubiquitous chain of fast food chicken joints in Kenya. With the guidance of a consultant, we built the women a chicken coop (“the Kuku House”), bought a heating oven for warmth and a tank for water, and purchased 80 tiny, fluffy, cheeping chicks.

AWF built the Kuku House for the women's chickens.

The women hired a caretaker. But after one chick fell into the heating oven (oops), the caretaker was swiftly relieved of his kuku duties and the women hired another. Today, all 79 chickens are healthy and busy laying big brown eggs. The caretaker watches over the chickens while the women watch their sales climb. The eggs are a hit at the lodge and throughout the area. The Nkiloriti women hope to scale up their micro-enterprise, purchase more chicks, expand facilities, and receive additional training in accounting and basic marketing. I asked Anna Le Sirima, the chair of The Kuku Project, how the money will benefit her. “The kuku money has helped me buy some clothes for my children and some medicines for my goats. I want to save some money to build a house.” If chicken eggs can turn into medicine and clothing, that sounds good to me.

Fiesta and the Kuku Women

Fiesta Warinwa (Samburu Heartland director) and the Kuku Women