Introduction

Conservation strategies in Africa typically comprise a variety of approaches aimed at preserving biodiversity, safeguarding species, and conserving habitat. Such approaches are all critical measures for preserving ecosystems that benefit local communities and contributing to policies that conserve biodiversity and global environmental goals. Community-Based Approaches (CBA) offer a unique perspective by emphasising local involvement and integrating conservation actions with community development.

The limitations of community-based wildlife management in addressing wildlife conservation conflicts and peacebuilding are not limited to local or environmental challenges. They are inextricably linked to global economic institutions, cultural norms, and the power wielded by dominant socio-economic forces over local communities. Community-based initiatives usually assume that local engagement and benefit-sharing will naturally lead to conflict resolution and long-term peace.1  However, these assumptions may overlook the complicated historical, economic, and political factors that trigger and fuel local conflicts. For example, community-based wildlife management may fail to address systemic inequalities and external pressures, such as land grabs, neoliberal conservation schemes, and global market demands.2

In Africa, the effectiveness of Community-Based Approaches (CBAs) in managing wildlife conservation disputes and peacebuilding varies by the local setting. For example, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, CBAs like conservancy models have been used to resolve conflicts between wildlife conservation efforts and Maasai pastoralists.3 Recognising the limitations of CBAs is critical for improved conflict resolution and peacebuilding methods, ultimately improving the lives of residents living close to protected areas.

Stakeholder Conflicts in Loliondo Game-Controlled Areas

The Loliondo GCA conflict, which is well-documented in Tanzania’s postcolonial history,4 encompasses a complicated collision of interests among numerous players over land rights, conservation initiatives, and development. Based on research findings and history, the Maasai people have not only lived in this area, but are recognized for their semi-nomadic lifestyle and strong attachment to their land and livestock. The implementation of colonial land laws, followed by post-independence conservation initiatives, marked the start of the contentious policy of relocating marginalized indigenous groups. The establishment of game reserves and conservation areas to boost Tanzania’s tourism industry frequently came at the expense of the Maasai traditional lands, sparking disputes over land rights, access, and use.5 A Maasai lawyer acknowledged that the government’s initiatives to demarcate Loliondo for conservation and safari tourism, including granting hunting concessions to foreign firms, have been met with opposition, protests, and legal challenges.6

Stakeholders in the Loliondo conflict include the Tanzanian government, conservation NGOs, private hunting and safari businesses, and the indigenous Maasai population. Each group brings their own set of interests, values, and goals to the table, resulting in a complicated web of conflict. The government and NGOs frequently justify land limitations in the name of environmental protection and economic gains from tourism. In contrast,  private enterprises are motivated by the lucrative business of trophy hunting and safaris. On the other hand, the Maasai community struggles for the right to live, use, and manage their ancestral lands in ways that are sustainable and respectful of their traditional history. “It is important to highlight the significance of adopting inclusive policies that integrate the rights and needs of indigenous peoples with conservation and development objectives.”7

Maasai Experiences and Effects of Protected Area Conflicts in the Loliondo GCA

The Maasai people living near the Loliondo GCA, now known as the Pololeti Game Reserve, face significant challenges as a result of protected area conflicts. These challenges originate from the imposition of conservation initiatives and tourism development, which frequently alienate the indigenous population and violate their rights and traditions.8 The establishment of reserves has resulted in placing limits on grazing lands, which are essential to Maasai pastoralist livelihood and culture, creating substantial disruptions of their traditional way of life, including economic practices.9 This imposition has not only changed the socioeconomic structure but has also resulted in a sense of estrangement from their ancestral lands.10

Thus, “excluding Maasai people from land-use and conservation decision-making processes will result in the loss of indigenous knowledge, which is crucial for long-term environmental management.”11 Furthermore, other studies confirmed that the enforcement of conservation regulations has frequently resulted in human rights violations, such as forced evictions and limits on water and grazing grounds, aggravating the community’s vulnerability.12

Land Disputes in Loliondo GCA

Land dispute conflicts stem from the government’s efforts to build a community-based wildlife management area that encroaches on traditional grazing pastures that are essential to the livelihoods of the Maasai people.13 The contradiction between conservation policies that prioritize wildlife conservation and tourism revenue, over the needs and rights of local communities, feeds into local violent conflict dynamics. The imposition of these conservation areas, without adequately consulting or negotiating with the Maasai, undermines their traditional land rights. It threatens their cultural and economic survival, fueling ongoing resistance; this calls for more equitable land use policies.14

State Regulation Changes: Legitimising Land Use Policies

According to the interviews conducted during fieldwork, Maasai communities have filed a petition to protest revisions to Loliondo GCA regulations in 2022. They opposed the government’s attempt to acquire 1,502 km2 of common land in Loliondo.15 The government has changed the name of Loliondo GCA to Pololeti GCA. The Pololeti Game Controlled Area (PGCA) was formed by Government Notice No. 421, issued by the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.16 Following that, the President issued Government Notice No. 604 of 2022, designating the Pololeti Game Controlled Area as the Pololeti Game Reserve.17 These practices contradict the terms of the Land Act No. 4 of 1999 and the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999, which allowed the coexistence of Maasai villages, cattle, and wildlife. During interviews in Arusha, it was not clear why the government had decided to change the name from Loliondo to Pololeti.18

The regulation also identified changes in land use legislation that justified the potential loss of Maasai land. These amendments to state legislation governing the Loliondo GCA represent a landmark event in the area’s history and management legitimacy, mirroring a more significant trend of merging conservation efforts with indigenous communities’ rights and livelihoods. The Loliondo GCA, near Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, has long been a site of conflict between environmentalists, government policy, and Maasai pastoralists. The government needs to address these concerns by legitimising specific land use changes, such as conservation, pastoralism, and tourism zones. These changes are crucial for ensuring the long-term cohabitation of animal preservation with local human livelihoods. By openly supporting the Maasai’s right to utilise the land in ways that are compatible with conservation and their traditional way of life, the government seeks to foster a more inclusive approach to environmental protection. This strategy will emphasize the importance of including local communities in conservation decisions, as well as moving towards more equitable and sustainable land management practices.

The Maasai Communities of Loliondo Declined the Formation of WMAs

Interviews conducted during fieldwork revealed that the Maasai communities’ reluctance or refusal to establish Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) is due to a variety of causes, including concerns about land rights, socio-economic repercussions, and cultural preservation.19 Wildlife Management Areas frequently require communities to relinquish some level of control or ownership of their land. Land is not only a physical treasure for the Maasai; it also represents cultural identity, spiritual values, and tradition. There are concerns that Wildlife Management Areas may limit their traditional nomadic lifestyle, which relies significantly on grazing lands for their livestock.

The development of Wildlife Management Areas may limit the Maasai’s success in accessing critical resources like water and grazing lands, threatening their livelihoods. Furthermore, the benefits promised by WMAs, such as tourism money, are either realised in their distribution or are seen as unfair. WMAs can result in community displacement, and disrupt social institutions and cultural customs. Such displacement has the potential to destroy traditional ways of life and knowledge systems that have been passed down through generations over the centuries. Mistrust has existed between indigenous people and governmental or conservation entities throughout history. Previous instances of eviction and marginalization in the name of conservation have left a trail of scepticism against WMA projects. The Maasai communities view the establishment of WMAs as a threat to their survival, social wellbeing, and traditional way of life.

Conclusion

The analysis of the limitations of community-based approaches in resolving wildlife conservation conflicts and peacebuilding within the Loliondo GCA highlights the complexity of integrating traditional practices, community interests, and conservation policies. Despite the potential for Community-Based approaches to promote cooperation and sustainable natural resource management, their success is frequently limited by power imbalances, insufficient incorporation of local knowledge, and sociopolitical factors that marginalize specific groups. The interaction between global conservation narratives and local reality hinders the execution of these approaches, resulting in conflicts that undercut conservation goals while also impeding peacebuilding efforts. This analysis emphasizes the importance of reevaluating Community-Based strategies to ensure they are genuinely inclusive, culturally sensitive, and politically equitable. This will increase their ability to contribute effectively to wildlife conservation and community wellbeing in the Loliondo GCA.

Endnotes

  1. S. Hachmann., K. Löhr, H. Morales-Muñoz, L. Eufemia,  S. Sieber, & M. Bonatti. Conceptualizing Community-based Environmental Peacebuilding in Cesar, Colombia. Human Ecology, 51(2), 2023; 221–235.
  2. F. S. Moyo, Community-Based Conservation in Tanzania: Discourses and Realities. 2018.
  3. M. S. Mureithi,, A. T. Verdoodt, J. S. Njoka, J. Olesarioyo,  & E. Van Ranst. Community-Based Conservation: An Emerging Land Use at the Livestock-Wildlife Interface in Northern Kenya. Wildlife Management – Failures, Successes and Prospects, 2019; 61-79.
  4. WWF,  Improving the Response to Human-Wildlife Conflict in the Mozambique and South Africa Constituents of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. 2020
  5. G. Minja, Exploration and Evaluation of the Alternative Wildlife Management Options for the Loliondo Game Controlled Area in Tanzania : Multi-criteria Analysis. PhD Dissertation. 2020.
  6. A. Mittal, & E. Fraser, Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to Run Forever. The Oakland Institute. 2018.1–46.
  7. Interview with Maasai Lawyer in Arusha, October. 2023.
  8. Interview with UCRT Programe Cordinator in Arusha, October. 2023.
  9. M. J. Goldman,  Strangers in their own land: Maasai and wildlife conservation in Northern Tanzania. Conservation and Society 9, (1). 2011. 65–79.
  10. K. M. Homewood,  P. C. Trench, & D. Brockington. Pastoralist livelihoods and wildlife revenues in East Africa: a case for coexistence? Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice  2 2012. (1), 1–23.
  11. P. Wilfred, Toward Effective Partially Protected  Areas in Tanzania: A Review on Experiences From Ugalla Ecosystem. Tanzania Journal of Science, 44, (3), 115–135. 2018.
  12. Interview with the Programme Director at African People and Wildlife (APW) in Arusha in November. 2023.
  13. J. R. Kideghesho,  A. A. Rija,  K. A. Mwamende, & I. S. Selemani,  (2013). Emerging issues and challenges in conservation of biodiversity in the rangelands of Tanzania. Nature Conservation, 6. 2013.1–29.
  14. Interview with UCRT Programme Coordinator in Arusha, October 2023.
  15. J. Gilbert, Land grabbing, investments & indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources. 2017.
  16. Interview with an Appellate Division Lawyer at the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) in Arusha in October 2023
  17. United Republic of Tanzania (URT). The Wildlife Conservation (Pololeti Game Controlled Area) Order, 2022, Issue 421.2022.
  18. Interview conducted with a lawyer from the Masai community in Arusha in October. 2023.
  19. Interview with a Masai lawyer in Arusha, conducted in October. 2023.
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