Livestock Breeding in the Mara North: A Tragedy of the Commons

This project aims to help the Maasai livestock breeders towards a sustainable management of grassing areas.

For grass areas to sustain, there has to be a balance between grassing and growth of grass. To better understand the balance between grassing and growth of grass, we will build a system dynamics model (see e.g. Håkonsson, Klaas, & Carroll, 2012; Lomi & Larsen, 2001; Sterman, 2000). System dynamics models enable understanding of the nonlinear behavior of complex systems over time. System dynamics models focus on the system level, and model the behavior of systems as a whole. Therefore, a system dynamics approach will enable a representation, di-agnosis, and subsequent adjustment of behavior patterns of livestock breeders in Mara North.

Based on the model, we will develop a card board game which we want the Maa-sai livestock breeders to play. The card board game’s theoretical background is The Tragedy of the Commons paradigm (see e.g. Ostrom, 2008) which shows that individuals who act independently and rationally according to their self-interests, will behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource (in this case the Mara North grass areas). The grass areas con-stitute a commons in the sense that they can be used by everyone and there is no management of them as such. As a result, the areas are overexploited.

The card board game will enable us to collect data on participants’ behavioral pat-terns, and at the same time serve to inform the livestock breeders about the conse-quences of their behaviors, as they will gain an understanding of the dynamics of the overall system.

Project manager: Dorthe Døjbak Håkonsson

Project partner: Erik Larsen