How to Design Collaboration in Conserving the Maasai Mara Ecosystem

Project team:

Professor Børge Obel, Department of Management, Aarhus University

Associate Professor Mette Løvschal, School of Culture and Society - Prehistoric Archaeology, Aarhus University

Greater Mara including Maasai Mara, Kenya, is currently facing an extreme land fragmentation and individual ownership, overgrazing and poaching, highlighting the urgency of drastic steps and broad-spectrum management strategies in order to conserve this unique ecosystem and culture.

The situation in Maasai Mara is unfortunately not different from many other places in the world, including South and East Africa, Mongolia and South America, where changes in land use patterns and ownership are currently causing distinctions of animals and collapses of ecosystem.

The Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative (MMSDI) has been set up with a clear common goal: To contribute to conserving the Maasai Mara ecosystem, its rich wildlife and culture through interdisciplinary research and development initiatives. MMSDI is an African-European public-private partnership founded in 2014 by a local community in the Maasai Mara, universities in Kenya, Denmark and Germany and a private company. Governmental institutions are supporting the initiative through a High Level Advisory Board, and the network of researchers and other stakeholders has grown to more than 60 members.

However, a key weakness in many current conservation development and management strategies is that they are rarely developed from evidence - and research based knowledge. Therefore, contrary to the intentions, science and research often only have a poor impact on local practice and national decision-making, resulting in a growing frustration at both researchers and local stakeholders. It is crucial therefore that the various parties and stakeholders engage in efficient and effective collaboration. More knowledge about the link between research and the development of initiatives is needed in order to provide guidelines for designing effective and sustainable collaboration between various stakeholders to support community and policy actions with science. There is clear evidence that top down hierarchical organizations do not deliver such a sustainable design. It has to be replaced by or amended with more bottom up collaborative designs.

 In this paper, we propose a conservation development model based on organization design principles of collaborative communities (Fjeldstad et al, 2012), which effectively allow for a much more effective and continuous engagement of communities, policy makers and researchers. First, we survey the present economic, ecologic and cultural challenges in the Maasai Mara area as well as proposed models for community development in a conservation context from elsewhere in the world. Second, we evaluate these models based on current knowledge of the effectiveness of different organization designs and especially the design of collaborative communities. Third, we evaluate the current collaboration initiates in Maasai Mara and suggest ways to design and redesign collaborative communities in the Maasai Mara area. Finally, given the urgency, we suggest an action oriented implementation and evaluation process of the suggested proposals.


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