Mama Watoto Program
'Feeding the Kids'
Hungry Learners Don't Learn
Mama Watoto (mother of many children) at Esupetai Primary School,
Olkiriane, Kenya, Maasai Mara, Narok County
Esupetai Primary school is a registered public school established in 2007 near the village of Olkiriane, Kenya (22km/13 miles southwest of Narok). Over the years, the school has attracted a huge number of children from within the community and its surrounding areas leading to a school population of 442 pupils. A huge percentage of these children endure hardships such as daily walks of 10 km/6 miles to and from the school in search of education. The terrain through which they transverse is rough and insecure since it is part of Maasai Mara Game Reserve where wild animals roam thus risking the lives of these children.
In an attempt to fulfill the school mission and vision of providing education that nurtures holistic development of learners and model individuals with virtues, the School Board of Management, teachers, government, and community at large decided to initiate a small feeding program. Due to extremely limited resources, the program caters only to students in grades 7 and 8, which include 78 pupils in total (50 of which are residing at the school). The aim is to sustain them nutritionally during the day to improve their concentration and attendance. The program has been well accepted though funding is inconsistent since most parents cannot afford the meal program. The remaining population which constitutes about 82% (364 pupils) are not able to access these services thus missing lunch daily making it very difficult to keep them in class throughout the day, many will skip classes because of hunger and are forced to go home early. The situation at home is not any better.
Rhino Mercy founders Tom and Julie Tochterman witnessed the needs of these children first hand in 2021; they decided something had to be done to help the children of this community.......to fill the gaps between what the local community was attempting to do for the health and education of these children and what more might be possible with a little help from friends.
The Mama Watoto Program mission is an effort to ‘fill the void’ and provide the entire school population with a ‘high nutritional porridge’ for lunch that will 1) better prepare the students to receive lessons and improve academic standards, 2) encourage children to stay at school and improve overall school attendance, 3) relieve family pressures to seek alternative sources of food such as bushmeat hunting/poaching.
Our objectives are to create a locally functional and sustainable ‘food security’ environment for the Esupetai school community, preserve Maasai traditions, promote climate resilience, and protect ecosystems.
Rhino Mercy has developed a phased approach to meeting the mission and objectives of the Mama Watoto Program. Key initiatives include the following:
Phase One: ‘Feeding the Kids’ project that targets the basic hunger needs of the entire student population. Construction of a food preparation and cleaning area including high efficiency stove(s) is also included in this phase.
Phase Two: ‘Boarding School Meals’ project will establish a hearty meal program for 50 students sleeping at the school because of the distances traveled from their homes. Cooking and cleaning upgrades are also anticipated.
Phase Three: ‘Climate Resilient Garden’ project will be scaled large enough to sustain the entire student population. Low-tech, low-cost farming techniques will be deployed on school property such as solar powered drip irrigation systems and hydroponics.
Phase Four: ‘Environmental Patriotism’ project designed to celebrate the Maasai cultural heritage and treatment of natural spaces and natural resources including all flora and fauna with an emphasis on endangered/threatened species.