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  • Writer's pictureJack Lekishon

Oliveseed—More to the Name Than Meets the Eye

The African olive tree is a symbol of both nurturing and strength in Maasai culture. Our friend Jack explains.

by Jack Lekishon

Just a brief note about the traditional meaning of the olive tree from which the Oliveseed Foundation's name is derived. In the Maasai Mara, the seed of the African wild olive tree is used to bring together a calf and its mother. When a mother-cow gives birth, her calf is usually separated at night in a cowshed in order to provide the calf with warm conditions from the cold outside. But now the mother smells and finds a different odor that makes her feel isolated from her young one. A dry log of olive tree wood is chopped into pieces and burned with a high smoke point to produce a smoke that contains fatty glycerides and an acid-like smell, which is allowed to warm the calf. This kind of neutral smell also attracts the mother to its calf.

Jack with an African wild olive at Basecamp Maasai Mara

This is exactly what the Oliveseed Foundation is doing. By its efforts, Oliveseed brings young people together to pursue their education, especially the girl child who is undermined in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Oliveseed and the Mara Girls Conservation Club foster the potential of these young girls, helping them to realize their goals in life and to develop a better understanding of the need to conserve natural resources for the benefit of the nation—its people, its wildlife, and its future generations.

Moreover, the olive tree, in both traditional and modern society, is believed to be a strong tree species.Traditionally, its roots are boiled and mixed with boiled fresh meat. We believe that when young people consume this “soup” it will build muscle, provide more energy, and make them as strong as an olive tree. In addition, the olive tree is very hardy. It is drought-, disease-, and fire-resistant, and can live to a great age. Its roots are robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. It grows with a broad crown of leafy branches.

Similarly, the Mara Girls Conservation Club and Oliveseed Foundation are bound together to nurture young people in conservation, despite all the challenges they face, empowering girls to learn and protect wildlife and conserve the environment. The olive tree’s spirit of regeneration also mirrors Oliveseed’s capability to help the girl child arise and shine despite her challenges in today's society. She has the potential to make a difference and succeed in academics, leadership, and conservation.

Planting an African olive in the Basecamp forest along the Talek River

Did you know that that the Hamerkop—a bird that builds the heaviest nests in the world—nests in African olive trees? Because the African olive is the strongest tree species in the wild, it is able to hold the massive nest made of sticks, wood, and mud. Likewise Oliveseed Foundation is as strong as an olive tree to inspire young people no matter where they are from, giving them the skills needed to become leaders in their communities and the confidence to make a difference in the world.


About the Author

Jack Lekishon is a native Maasai, born and raised in Narok County. He is passionate about preserving the natural environment of the Maasai Mara and teaching young people to be the future stewards of it. Jack studied conservation and safari guiding at the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya School in Nairobi. Today, he is a community and conservation activist and a volunteer organizer for the Conservation Club at Mara Girls Leadership School.


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