About Olkerii, Ltd
About Our Farm
The Birth of Zulugrass
In 2001, a terrible drought persisted for several years and brought devastation to the pasture lands. The livelihood of the Maasai disappeared as their cattle died. The men had to drive the few remaining cattle hundreds of miles away in search for better grazing while the women looked desperately for ways to feed, clothe, and educate their children and obtain medical supplies.
Philip and Katy Leakey, who live among the Maasai in East Africa, wanted to provide their neighbors with work opportunities. They came up with an imaginative idea to utilize the excellent beading abilities of the Maasai women by using a readily available, sustainable resource- GRASS- as the primary element. Previously used in the furniture industry due to its strength, the reed-like grass was dried, cut into bead-size pieces, dyed with environmentally-friendly textile dyes, and strung on durable elastic with hand-blown Czech glass beads. Mobile work stations were set up so the women could bring their babies and toddlers with them and work when they chose. As word passed through the Maasai community, women started walking as much as two hours each way to have their first chance to earn money. Now, even the men have joined in the entrepreneurial opportunities.
Who Are Philip and Katy Leakey?
- Philip Leakey is the third and youngest son of paleo-anthropologists Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey. He was a Member of Parliament in Kenya for 15 years, a Deputy Member of the Cabinet for 14 years, and a Member of the Cabinet for 1 year. Philip is known in Kenya for his dedication towards improving conditions for all Kenyans with particular attention to the areas of business opportunity and the environment.
- Katy Leakey is an artist and a designer. Her interest as an artist has been to connect diverse cultures through understanding using art as a vehicle. Katy spent time studying ancient cultures in the unexplored areas of the Amazon of Peru and Ecuador before moving to Africa in 2001. In 1964, Allen and Helen O'Brien along with Katy Leakey's parents, Robert and Evelyn Moodey and three others, co-founded the L.S.B. Leakey foundation, lending a cultural anthropological bent towards Katy's lifelong work in art.