Simon Maison Tongoyo


Hailing from the Maasai indigenous community in Kenya, Simon has witnessed first-hand how land conflict and food insecurity threaten his people’s survival. Eager to address these issues and learn more about social development and alternative livelihoods for his community, in 2013 he began volunteering for Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA), a community-based Indigenous Peoples organization (IPO) working on indigenous rights, environmental governance and community development, helping to organize community meetings and writing field reports. In 2014 he enrolled for a Diploma in Social Work in order to further his knowledge of human rights, development and conservation issues, as well as his academic and research skills. In addition, he helped to establish the Maji-Moto Student Association: during his five years as Chairman, he mobilized youths from surrounding villages to convene for meetings to talk about importance of education to young generation and help clean local water sources, securing the necessary funds to do so from local leaders and other local organizations. He has also facilitated meetings between community elders and other stakeholders to discuss water conflicts and the importance of alternative livelihoods for the community, such as bee keeping and hay planting.

Recently, he has been working at the forefront of an on-going land rights struggle in the Maji-Moto Group Ranch, where he has been working tirelessly to mobilize community members, both young and old, to fight for their rights and speak against land grabbing, corruption and poor leadership, successfully bringing the issue to Court. His instrumental role in this struggle has been appreciated by his community members and entrusted him to be the watchdog for the correction move of the messes of the group ranch by electing him on the recent election as Secretary of the Maji-Moto Group Ranch, after a vote-of-no-confidence in the incumbent committee due to their role in land grabbing.

The JWHI grant allowed him to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at the Maasai Mara University, which he unfortunately had to discontinue after his second year due to a lack of funds. In addition to broadening his knowledge on the range of issues in the realm of community development and environmental protection and enhancing his qualifications, the degree will improve his research and writing skills, which he hopes to use to research and document environmental and social problems, governance dynamics affecting his community and how best to facilitate intergenerational dialogues and transfer of traditional knowledge through documentation. He also wishes to develop his advocacy skills in order to lobby policy makers to address policy gaps and enhance implementation of existing positive policies in his region as well as personal empowerment.

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