Every year, thousands of people gather at the rolling plains of the Lewa wildlife conservancy for the Lewa marathon. For 18 years now, the wildlife conservancy which is located about 230 kilometres from Nairobi, hosts one of the greatest races in the world to raise funds for conservation of the wildlife in Lewa and for the sustenance of community development projects around the area.
With up to 1,400 runners from all over the globe participating each year and over Kshs 445 million has so far raised, the event has gained a reputation as one of the greatest experiences in the world and one of the biggest community conservation projects in the country. Part of the profits made from the marathon is re-invested into community development projects to serve the basic needs of the communities and give them the tools and training to improve their own lives.
In light of this, this year’s theme – You run, I win – seeks to raise awareness about the projects and communities that have benefitted from funds raised through the Marathon. Among the projects include: Lewa Conservancy, Northern Rangelands Trust, Mt. Kenya Trust, Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, Space for Giants, Koiyaki Guide School, Olare Orok Conservation Trust, Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, Watamu Turtle Watch, Bongo Surveillance Project, Kibodo Trust, Tsavo Trust, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Big Life Foundation and Borana Conservancy. The funds support community initiatives around education, healthcare, employment and economic empowerment in different geographies, with beneficiaries spanning Central, Northern, Western, Rift and Coastal regions.
Lewa is determined to see conservation make a difference to the lives of ordinary Kenyans in otherwise challenging economic and environmental circumstances.
Here are some of the ways in which the annual marathon benefits the surrounding community:
With the location of the area, there is a scarcity of health care services and centers in the region. The funds from the marathon have led to the construction of health care centers that provide vital and immediate services like maternal and child care services
Another major community development initiative that sprung up from the proceeds is the education program that has seen over 21 schools fill the gap in acquiring wholesome education for the children living in those areas. There are a large number of underprivileged children and orphans who are supported from primary school all the way till their postgraduate studies through the funds acquired from the race.
The locals also get to be educated on matters entrepreneurship from the Big Life Foundation in Kajiado that educates Morans on other ways of meeting their daily needs & expanding their horizons in order to broaden their source of livelihood and the Local Ocean Trust at the Coast that teaches residents on how to protect real endangered species.
Another major benefactor group from the marathon is the women. The Lewa community has seen exponential growth by bringing women on board in terms of development. There exists a program in which the women are taught and trained on how to establish their businesses and as a result of this, the women are able to sustain their families as well as the community at large
Agriculture has also seen a big boost in the area with the over 13 water projects delivering clean water for consumption and agriculture, which has grown to become a basic economic activity in the area.
According to CEO of Lewa Conservancy Mike Watson, it is the target of the Safaricom Marathon to increase the proceeds from last year’s Kshs 62 million to Kshs 72 million this year in order to continue to actively participate in the protection of wildlife and the significant transformation that the community of Lewa has so far seen.
Kenya needs more Lewas – more working agendas that are able to meet the compelling priorities of communities by contributing directly towards development agenda by meeting real needs, enhancing livelihood options, and addressing environmental priorities if we do wish to see our nation grow.