Dr. Daniel Sambu, University of Wisconsin La Crosse. May 01, 2020
Wildlife conservation strategies and efforts to improve community livelihood have been on a collision course for many decades. In Kenya and Tanzania for example, the national park system was created in the mid-20th century through a forceful eviction of indigenous communities to carve out protected areas where all forms of human use except research and tourism were forbidden.
The move stifled access to natural resources creating impoverished communities who became hostile or indifferent to wildlife conservation. While the park system affected many communities in different ways, the pastoralists such as the Maasai bore the brunt of the consequences owing not only to the limit to natural resources but also to disruption of seasonal migration – a long-established adaptive mechanism to deal with changing weather patterns.
For many years, the Maasai communities in Kenya and Tanzania practiced nomadic pastoralism, with their movement in search of water and pasture dictated by irregular wet and dry seasonal climatic pulse. This was relatively easy because the management and ownership of natural resources, including water and pasture, lay in the hands of traditional communal institutions.
However, the advent of European power changed this arrangement by imposing a system of governance based on individual land rights, and by expropriating huge chunks of land for exclusive wildlife conservation.
In this multimedia project, Dr. Daniel Sambu explores how these changes continue to have profound social, economic, and cultural impacts on the Maasai communities in Kenya and Tanzania.