Conservation and the Maasai

The Threat to Wildlife in the Greater Mara Ecosystem

Landowners in Kenya have since the colonial era, not seen wildlife as true land use, because they have been systematically disenfranchised from its remarkable ‘abstract value’ by law; state ownership of wildlife has allowed the monopoly of its use and revenues by the private sector wildlife operator – the tourism industry, wildlife conservation non-government organisations, carbon brokers, etc.

The result of this disenfranchisement has been a massive land-use conversion.

Below are two maps that show the scale of the problem.

Map 1

The pink area shows land already converted to fenced subsistence farming in the greater Mara ecosystem over the last 30 years, which has grown at a rate of 8% per annum.

The Greater Mara Ecosystem covers 5,000 square kilometres and is home to 25% of Kenya’s total wildlife numbers, and it is therefore critical to stop and reverse this land-use change process and loss of natural biodiversity.

Map 2

Olderkesi is in one of the key wildlife corridors linking the Masai Mara National Reserve and the Naimina Enkiyo forest of the Nguruman mountains (number 14). Up to 4,000 elephants historically used this route every year, now reduced over the last 40 years to 1,200, with the likelihood of a completely closed corridor within 5 years if the land-use change continues.

The solutions

Working with our partners AWF, we helped the Olderkesi community develop a land-use plan, which has been further refined since  using a ‘Theory of Change’ process that we helped to develop with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SULI) and International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED)

It is basically a process of structured meetings with the Olderkesi GR inhabitants (older men, women and young men) to collectively agree on which areas to farm, to keep for wildlife and domestic stock, and to agree where to put up urban centres and industry. We use this structured ToC and the financial power of leasing land for Nature and tourism revenues to convince landowners to make larger areas unfarmed and to keep wildlife corridors between habitats open.

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