International Livestock Research Institute, The Reto-O-Reto Foundation, Colorado State University / Reto-O-Reto Project
Dr David Nkedianye, Director
Robin Reid, Director and Faculty Member
Center for Collaborative Conservation
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Much of the wildlife in east Africa is still found on the savanna lands of pastoral people and inside parks. The parks were created in the 1940s on pastoral land and often sit on top of critical dry season resources for wildlife and people alike. Many parks were created without the permission of pastoralists and only recently started to share the profits of wildlife with pastoral communities. Since pastoral land use is often compatible with wildlife, this created an unfortunate land rights conflict between pastoralists and wildlife, with the very people who co-existing with this wildlife for millennia.
This project started in 2000 to promote landscape-scale conservation and pastoral development in five ecosystems (Maasai Mara, Longido, Amboseli, Tarangire, and Kitengela) in Maasailand of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. The large interdisciplinary team included pastoral community members, wildlife conservationists, researchers, government managers and NGO’s. The purpose of the initiative was to link knowledge and action to:
• Assess the trends in wildlife, land use and land tenure in the five ecosystems
• Determine the causes of changes in wildlife populations over time
• Assess the value of alternative land use practices to uncover any incentives or disincentives for conservation
• Discover ways to add value to livestock production
• Empower local pastoral communities to be major actors in conservation so that conservation supports their livelihoods and their livelihoods supports conservation
• Work with local and national policy makers to support pastoral initiatives to conserve wildlife and support pastoral livelihoods
A key component of this initiative was including 5 Maasai community facilitators who worked as boundary spanning leaders to ensure that all research addressed community needs and involved community members at all stages. These community facilitators were charged with linking knowledge with action, so that community action included research, and research supported community action.
• Agricultural economics
• Rural sociology
• International development
• Environmental science
• GIS, remote sensing and modelling
• Veterinary and animal sciences
• Linking knowledge with action
In these 5 ecosystems, our 5 community facilitators made many partnerships with local community organizations, local government, NGO’s, local leaders, school teachers, development practitioners and conservation practitioners. Some of the more involved partners included: the Kitengela Landowner’s Association, University College London, and The Wildlife Trust.
Critical points in the group’s history:
• 2002, large grant acquired to test our linking knowledge with action model
• 2003-2007, major success of model linking communities with researchers, promoting and supporting action on conservation and pastoral development
• 2007, first large grant completed, Reid moves back to US, team fractures
• 2008 Reto-o-Reto Foundation established, smaller team continues work, major grant acquired to expand Kitengela Land Leasing Program to keep fences down
• 2009 Kenya’s first land-use plan for a pastoral savanna created, major demonstrations occur to raise political awareness of need for land-use plan
• 2009-2010 Conservancies in the Maasai Mara designed by community facilitator
• 2011 Land use plan approved but not implemented
• 2012 Community facilitator drafted to run for political office
• 2013 ??
Early champions were the leaders above, plus a strong trans-disciplinary team of social and natural scientists, plus a group of 5 policy and community facilitators.
This initiative empowered particular individuals and their communities to act to keep land open for both livestock and wildlife in a faster and more effective way. It also created an innovative model of how academics can drive their research to meet the information needs of communities as well as empower local voices.
The land-use planning in Kitengela and the major expansion of conservancies in the Mara ecosystem were likely strongly influenced by the empowerment of this project, although this has not been measured.
Our collaborative research model, starting with community needs, and working closely with communities throughout the research-with-action is transferable. Also placing community faciltators at the heart of an interdisciplinary research team is also transferable.
This initiative was very active from 2000-2007, when Reid left ILRI. Since then, activities have continued through several related projects, led most often by the community facilitators of the Reto-o-Reto project, and under the newly founded Reto-o-Reto Foundation.
Our community facilitator model as described above.