Dr. Crystal Mogensen
Dr. Crystal Mogensen is the CEO of The Maa Trust, a community-based non-profit in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. The Maa Trust increases benefits local Maasai communities receive from safari tourism, focusing on the traditionally disadvantaged. The trust works to empower women, youth, and children through three thematic areas: Education and Skills, Water and Health, and Alternative Livelihoods. The Maa Trust’s programs are research-based, built upon Dr. Mogensen’s Ph.D. examining the relationship between conservancies and development in the Maasai Mara.
“In terms of how our work interlinks with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs,) we touch on the following goals.
No poverty – The Maa Trust works to reduce poverty through livelihood diversification and income generation, women’s empowerment, and the provision of basic services.
Good health and wellbeing – Integrated Community Healthcare Project work to provide quality healthcare to marginalized rural communities. Community Health Mobilisers (CHMs) working door-to-door within their communities educating families about water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as sexual reproductive health. CHMs can refer those in need of healthcare services to one of six partner clinics, a mobile medical camp that is put up in rural areas 4 times per month or a mobile nurse service that comes to the house. Although this program provides comprehensive medical services, it focuses on sexual reproductive health and family planning.
Quality education – The focus of our children’s program is making sure that all children attend school, and then once they are in school, that they receive a quality education. This involves tackling FGM, child marriage, child pregnancy, and child labor, which are the leading causes of children not being in school in the Mara. To provide quality education, infrastructure is constructed (especially toilets and rainwater harvesting) and teachers are upskilled. With the completion of our IT hub, we will start training local teachers on how to use IT to make lessons more fun and interactive for children.
Gender equality – We are working to prevent all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination, including FGM, child marriage, and child pregnancy. Through our empowerment work with women, they are starting to recognize when they are being marginalized and demand that their voices should also be heard.
Clean water and sanitation – The Maa Trust has moved away from troublesome boreholes and now focuses on large scale rainwater harvesting and natural spring rehabilitation. Alongside all community infrastructure, we provide soft skills including water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH,) community-led total sanitation (CLTS,) and menstrual hygiene management (MHM.)
Affordable and clean energy – The Maa Trust is piloting a new modular solar system called the SunBlazer at its new HQ and looks forward to rolling this out across the area, including charging electric vehicles. On a smaller scale, through our sustainable spending program, we encourage women to earn money through the trust’s social enterprises to use this to address their greatest problems at home, whether that be a household solar system for power, rainwater harvesting tank, gas cooking stove or school fees.
Decent work and economic growth – The Maa Trust coordinated three social enterprises, two for women (Maa Beadwork and Maa Honey) and one for youth (Maa Bricks.) Collectively, these engage 724 people. Vocational training is provided within the social enterprises, raw materials are provided, and the members are paid for their labor. Aside from the income generation activities, the village-based groups are registered and undertake microfinance and merry-go-round activities within their groups.
Climate action/life on land – The trust works together with wildlife conservancies and the mission of the trust is to ensure that communities benefit from the protection of wildlife and habitat through evidence-based community development. Maasai families are leasing their land for conservation, and so it is essential that they receive, and appreciate, multiple benefit streams resulting from these conservation activities for sustainability. All activities undertaken by the trust have conservation and climate mitigation in mind; trust is a sustainable development implementer.”