Dorobo Safaris was started in the mid-1980's, in the early days of the development of Tanzanian ecotourism. Then, as now, Dorobo focused on developing unique and personal experiences 'off the beaten track' involving local cultures, ecosystems, and wilderness areas. Even at this time it was clear that numerous threats from expanding human populations and economic activities, such as agriculture and charcoal burning, posed a threat to sustainable livelihoods and to conservation of northern Tanzania's extraordinary biodiversity and wildlife. By 1991, Dorobo Safaris had worked to initiate the first joint venture agreements with local Maasai villages providing payment in exchange for access to village lands for tourism. These involved the villages setting aside large concession areas where agriculture and charcoal burning were prohibited, but other activities such as seasonal livestock grazing could continue. The original contracts remain in place, after innumerable meetings, re-negotiations, and amendments, nearly twenty years later.
By the mid-1990’s, despite these initial steps to reconcile conservation with community livelihood interests, those at Dorobo Safaris had become convinced that a broader and more holistic approach was needed. The core issue that had become apparent was that communities needed support to carry out land use planning, build their capacity for natural resource management, consider the underlying issue of population growth and address the constant struggles over resource rights and land tenure that villagers across Tanzania were facing. Dorobo Safaris felt a new community-based organization was needed to help local communities address these resource management and governance issues. For over a decade they had watched as ineffective conservation and development projects failed while millions of dollars were spent by international organizations.
It was time to try a different tack. Several Maasai activists who had worked with KIPOC, one of the first official Maasai NGO's formed in the early 1990's, were recruited. These committed individuals had roots in the communities and experience facilitating local development processes. In order to channel philanthropic funds, the Dorobo Fund, a 501 C3, was registered in the US and a locally implementing Trust, the Ujamaa Community Resource Trust (link) was born in Tanzania in 1997.