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Livestock-wildlife trade-offs for pastoral livelihoods in the conservancies of the Masai Mara


Photo adapted from Walking with the Maasai by Make It Kenya/Stuart Butler.

A new research paper, Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara ecosystem, Kenya, was recently published in Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, May 2017. The paper is co-authored by Claire Bedelian, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and University College London (UCL), and Joseph Ogutu, of ILRI and the University of Hohenheim.

Abstract
‘Pastoralists in the wildlife-rich East African rangelands use diversification into conservation and tourism as a strategy to supplement livestock-based livelihoods and to spread risk. Tourism incomes are an important alternative source during drought, when livestock incomes decline. However, tourism may also reduce access to rangeland resources, and an abundant wildlife may destroy crops and injure, kill or transmit disease to livestock or people.

‘This paper investigates the ability of wildlife conservancies in the Mara, Kenya, to act as an alternative for pastoralists that mitigates risks and maintains resilience in a changing climate. It analyses data to examine how conservancies contribute to and integrate with pastoral livelihoods, and to understand how pastoralists are managing their livestock herds in response to conservancies.

‘It finds conservancy payments can provide an important, reliable, all-year-round source of income and prevent households from selling their animals during stress and for cash needs. Conservancies also retain grass banks during the dry season and provide opportunities for pastoralists to access good-quality forage. However, they reduce access to large areas of former grazing land and impose restrictions on livestock mobility. This affects the ability of pastoralists to remain flexible and able to access seasonally variable resources. Conflicts between grazing and conservancies may also heighten during drought times. Furthermore, income from land leases is not more than the contribution of livestock, meaning conservancy land leases create trade-offs for livestock-based livelihoods. Also, income is based on land ownership, which has inequity implications: women and other marginalised groups are left out. . . .’

Conclusions
‘This paper has explored the opportunities and conflicts that emerge for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods for landowners who participate in wildlife conservancies in the Mara, Kenya. Results show that, though offering stable payments (based on a stable tourism in the Mara), conservancies cause trade-offs as livestock and other livelihood activities are restricted. This reduces the ability to access resources, remain mobile and maintain resilience. Also, because the income received from conservancy payments is not more than that received from livestock production, conservancies do not adequately compensate landowners for the restrictions placed on their other livelihood activities. Moreover, since conservancy payments are limited to those owning land inside a conservancy, a large portion of the community do not receive conservancy payments but still experience the cost of lost livestock-grazing space. This includes women and other groups not allocated land during subdivision.

‘However, community members also recognised the benefits of conservancies for livestock grazing and pastoralism. Conservancies retain good quality and quantity of grass and are important livestock-grazing areas if accessible during drought times. Conservancies also pool land and pre vent further subdivision and fragmentation. Thus, given the extent of land tenure changes in the Mara, conservancies and other similar schemes that maintain open rangelands could offer a potentially optimistic outlook for these areas, provided livestock are accommodated for. Conservancy effects may therefore be mixed and dependent on the policies and practices of individual conservancies and of the landowners’ continuing motivations to participate.

‘Conservancies are not fully integrative, and like other schemes in Maasailand (Homewood et al. 2012), they aim to replace livestock, rather than to fully integrate with livestock within the same landscape. Livestock support livelihoods and can con tribute to protecting biodiversity; livestock landscapes thus need to be part of the conservation agenda. There is a need for better-thought-out integrative livestock-grazing plans, for better integration of pastoralism and tourism within and beyond conservancies. These need to acknowledge the risk management benefits associated with livestock, transmission of diseases between wildlife and livestock and the cultural and social values attached to livestock by the whole family. These need to be taken into account beyond any simple economic appraisal of conservancies or similar livelihood activity.

‘Pastoralists have always had traditional strategies to regulate the access and use of resources and to cope with climatic variability. These include regulations on how many herds access a particular grazing area or when they move to dry season areas or access important resources, such as salt or water, ensuring there is adequate remaining for others. Conservancies could do well to draw on and mimic such traditional grazing strategies developing their livestock-grazing plans together with livestock keepers, including both conservancy members and non-members.

‘The Mara is a unique case study; it is the highest wildlife-earning site in Maasailand (Homewood et al. 2009), and its impressive wildlife abundance and diversity make it one of the top most visited tourist attractions in Kenya. Being at the top end of tourism revenue potential means conservancies are able to offer relatively large payments on a wide scale in the Mara. It is not certain that similar schemes in other areas would be able to offer pastoralists as much. However, conservancies are growing across Kenya and being widely adopted by local communities (Reid, RS, D Kaelo, KA Galvin, and R Harmon: Pastoral wildlife conservancies in Kenya: A bottom-up revolution in conservation, balancing livelihoods and conservation?, unpublished). Although they vary considerably in terms of their ownership and management arrangements, this Mara case study provides valuable lessons for what could potentially occur in other sites.’

Recommendations

  • Carefully formulated livestock-grazing plans are needed to allow for better integration of, and space for, livestock within and outside of conservancies. These should recognise the need to conserve good-quality rangeland for livestock, similar to how the conservancies expand and conserve habitat for wildlife. This should occur through a participatory process, not just with conservancy members but also with women, herders and other non-members who reside next to a conservancy.
  • It is important that grazing plans are holistic and encompass areas outside of conservancies. They should analyse their impact on the MMNR as well as focusing on land within the conservancy to avoid the problem of leakage and degradation to areas outside.
  • An increased focus on conservancies as areas managed for livestock as well as their current focus on tourism and wildlife conservation is needed. This should involve the identification of critical areas and periods where conflict between livestock and tourism is likely to increase and will need mitigation with appropriate strategies.
  • There is opportunity for better integration of livestock in conservancy marketing, so tourists are aware from the outset and expect to see livestock are integrated into conservancies.
  • Better inclusion of non-conservancy members in conservancy operations is necessary. This includes in livestock-grazing plans but also in conservancy management and in the distribution of conservancy payments.
  • Clear policy guidelines for the development of conservancies, adequate benefit sharing, participatory processes and sustainable land use are required.

Acknowledgements
Funding for this research was provided by ESRC/NERC (UK), the German National Research Foundation (Germany), and the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (EU). Research for this journal article was carried out as part of the Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) research project. The PRISE consortium comprises the Overseas Development Institute (ODI, UK), the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (UK); Innovations Environnement Développement en Afrique (Senegal); and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (Pakistan), with country research partners the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (Tajikistan), the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Kenya Markets Trust (Kenya). This work was carried out under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), with financial support from the UK Governments Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.

Read the whole 2017 research paper
Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara ecosystem, Kenya, published in Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice, May 2017, written by Claire Bedelian, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and University College London (UCL), and Joseph Ogutu, of ILRI and the University of Hohenheim.

Read the 2016 working paper
Claire Bedelian and Joseph Ogutu, 2016. Trade-offs for climate-resilient pastoral livelihoods in wildlife conservancies in the Mara Ecosystem, Kenya: Small Grants Programme. United Kingdom: Overseas Development Institute.

Read related news on the ILRI Clippings blog
Lions and people and livestock (‘Oh, my!’): New research shows they can coexist within community conservancies, 24 Mar 2016.

Wildlife ‘crash’ reported in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara region, 1 Jun 2011.

Read related news on the ILRI News blog
Kenya’s wildlife populations are in ‘widespread’ and ‘catastrophic’ decline—New study, 1 Oct 2016.

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