The Institute for Maasai Education, Research, and Conservation (MERC) exists to offer community organizing and leadership to efforts of the Maasai community of East Africa for self-determination, land justice, cultural survival, and economic empowerment. MERC works closely with grassroots Maasai organizations throughout Maasailand, all levels of Kenyan government, and national and international civil society organizations to create partnerships and access to decision making. MERC supports the leadership of Meitamei Olol Dapash and through him is accountable to Maasai traditional leadership. MERC is a registered Non-governmental organization in Kenya, and also a 501(c)3 in the U.S. The U.S. board and staff are all volunteers, which is one of the things that distinguishes MERC for other international organizations working in Maasailand; another is that MERC is funded entirely through grassroots contributions. MERC is based in the Dopoi Center on community land near Talek.
MERC promotes the empowerment of the indigenous Maasai community of East Africa through education, tourism reform, environmental conservation, and land rights, while it engages with broader international efforts for indigenous cultural survival, education, species survival, and environmental conservation.
Our vision is a Maasai community that occupies its homeland within African states yet as a distinct society, one economically secure and politically empowered to determine its own future. This vision comprises the core of our agenda:
- To regain structural control of the management and allocation of resources in Maasailand, including national parks and game reserves and the conservation and tourism industries.
- To support the organization of Maasai workers through labor associations
- To secure just political representation for Maasai at all levels of national and local government, and the unencumbered ability of Maasai community to elect its own leadership
- To implement a community driven design for development in Maasailand that reinvigorates Maasai culture on the land, coexistence with wildlife communities, recovery of water and ecological systems
- To ensure universal, decolonized education for Maasai people
- To control the representation of Maasai in academic scholarship and media.