African Wildlife Foundation, P.O.Box 48177, Nairobi, Kenya


In this presentation we have chosen to refer to ‘livestock IN the environment’ rather than ‘livestock AND the environment’, emphasising that livestock is not separate from, and dichotomous to, the environment, but rather one intrinsic component, and a tool for its management. Our paper presents a perspective on livestock and wildlife as components of environment in pastoral areas of East Africa. Using examples from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, it describes how the livestock component interacts, both positively and negatively, with other important elements of this environment, and especially with wildlife.

By ‘wildlife’ we mean the spectrum of living, non-domesticated species, both plant and animal, now commonly referred to as biodiversity. Yet despite this modern and comprehensive definition of wildlife, issues and conflicts between livestock and wildlife as land uses are frequently centered on ungulates and other large mammals, which share ecological niches with livestock species, and access to the range and vegetation which support all of them.

Some recent publications, and advocacy groups, stress that wildlife conservation has robbed pastoralists of a significant part of their traditional range. But with the pressures of various other forms of land use increasing, particularly settled agriculture and subdivision of pastoral lands, pastoralists and wildlife managers in East Africa find themselves forced into an uneasy alliance. In general, it could be said that pastoralism and wildlife both have first-order conflicts (fundamental incompatibility) with intensive agriculture, whereas they only have second-order conflicts (some constraints to compatibility) with each other. Given these conditions, a strategy of some pastoralist and conservation groups is to:

The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has been working in the major wildlife areas of East Africa for 35 years. During this time, and especially in the last decade, we have found it impossible to address wildlife issues without being closely associated with, and informed by, the livestock economy, for it is primarily in pastoral areas that large African wildlife species remain. Many observers have noted that the fate of African wildlife and African pastoralists seem to be inextricably linked. As a result, a number of our projects employ pastoralists, and work specifically with pastoralist groups, to look at options for managing land, vegetation, livestock and wildlife resources. As this process evolves, and conditions change, many of the old, technical distinctions between different types of resources change also.

In areas where wildlife management has been integrated with pastoralism, pastoral communities have been heard to refer to wildlife by such euphemisms as “our other cattle” and “cattle that give milk when it is very dry”. Functionally, wildlife and livestock are integrated into their land use production system. While this is encouraging, the political and sociological environment is complex, many issues providing a challenge to planners, policymakers and stakeholders alike.

The examples in this paper focus on areas that have considerable opportunities for integrated planning - the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALS) of East Africa. We need to acknowledge, however, constraints to such integration, and recognise the influence of historical decisions on land use (such as creation of National Parks) as well as current development pressures.

Some key issues

Examples of mixed wildlife/livestock systems from East Africa

The examples in this section describe production systems in East Africa where traditional patterns of co-existence between pastoralists and wildlife have been disrupted or challenged. AWF is examining opportunities for interventions which could lead to the establishment of a new balance, and some of this ongoing work is discussed briefly.

1. Uganda: Ankole Long-horned Cows and the Lake Mburo Ecosystem

The Ankole Region of south western Uganda is the home of the traditionally nomadic Bahima people. The management of Lake Mburo National Park, which lies at the heart of the region, has long recognized the critical nature of the relationship between the core area of the park, with its extensive wetland system, and the surrounding privately-owned rangelands. Historically, in dry years, the Bahima would follow the wildlife, driving their famous long-horned Ankole cattle south from the rapidly desiccating hinterland. When the rains fell, the movements were reversed, and wildlife and cattle dispersed to the fresh grazing and replenished water sources to the north, allowing the vegetation to recover. As a result of this pattern, during the dry season there is local political pressure to admit livestock into the park. During the rainy season large numbers of impala, zebra, eland and topi are outside the park. where they are vulnerable to illegal hunting, compete for grazing with wildlife, consume salt purchased for cattle, break fences and damage watering facilities. Research has shown that the pastoralists around Lake Mburo National Park are more negative to the existence of the park than any other population group.

In an effort to resolve this complex of problems, the conservation authorities, with donor and NGO support, are beginning to look at innovative strategies for managing the broader ecosystem. A number of interesting opportunities have been identified and are currently being researched. It is believed that they will help reduce the general trend towards conversion of rangeland outside the park to farmland, which is a threat to both biological diversity and to the lifestyle of the Bahima people. Incorporating wildlife into the economics of mixed land use that the Bahima people are developing around the park could combat this pressure, and retain a greater diversity of options for pastoralists as they adapt to a more settled lifestyle, in smaller areas of land.

It has been estimated that at existing population levels, an impala (Aepyceros melampus) cropping scheme would provide revenue to the average pastoralist settler sufficient to pay the school fees of two children, and it has been indicated that this would be sufficient to encourage the protection of impala by more than balancing the costs of having them on their land. In addition, the park management have been experimenting with living fences that would enable crops to be protected from damage by wild animals, thus removing a major area of conflict.

Research has also been initiated to determine whether Ankole Long-horn cattle could be integrated into the management of the national park. Existing information suggests that the breed is unique and represents important biodiversity which should be conserved. The changing land use and lifestyle of the Bahima suggest that the cattle breed itself will come under threat. This value is one which might find integration into the role and function of a national park. The striking appearance of the cows, with their giant horns and deep red coloration could have value as a tourist attraction, and hence revenue source, if an appropriate interpretation programme was undertaken to educate park visitors as to their role.

Finally, an examination of the non-economic (cultural or spiritual) values of the Ankole people is being carried out to determine whether the integration of the cow into the park would alter the nature of the relationship between the park and the people. The existence of the Ankole cow within the natural environment (the color and shape of the horns, for example, mimics the color and shape of a dominant species of acacia, Acacia sibiriana, may also be integral to the definition of the Ankole cow. Concerns are being expressed among the Bahima that confining Ankole cows to small, enclosed, heavily modified spaces outside the park will destroy, or alter, the essence of the cow. This is important to the Bahima as the Ankole cow forms the central focus of their cultural and spiritual, as well as economic, existence.

There remain many difficulties, however, inherent in blurring the lines between conservation and production practices. The very question of introducing consumptive values to wildlife can be controversial and there is no guarantee that, in this case, the Government of Uganda will make this decision. Likewise the idea of integrating livestock into a national park can spark heated debate. It seems clear that integrating a broadened set of values into land uses that includes both wildlife and cattle can be beneficial for conservation, production and diversity. To guide the debate, further experimentation (with rigorous analysis and monitoring) is required to tease out the dynamics.

2. Tanzania

2.1 The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)

The NCA is perhaps the most significant single example of an attempt to reconcile pastoralism and conservation in the world. The NCA, adjacent to Serengeti National Park, was formed as a multiple land-use area which combined Maasai pastoralism and wildlife conservation. It is widely acknowledged that the great herds of wildlife that remain in the Serengeti ecosystem are present today mainly because of the Maasai tradition of pastoralism rather than agriculture as a primary economic activity, as well as the Maasai tradition of not eating wild meat under most circumstances. It is less widely acknowledged that without the modern conservation provisions of the Ngorongoro Ordinance, much of the Ngorongoro highlands could by now have been lost to both conservation and pastoralism, by the extremely aggressive spread of agriculture that characterizes the surrounding district.

Despite the remarkable innovativeness of the compromise between conservation and pastoralist at the time, the alliance has in recent years been eroded and actions have been taken which threaten the well-being of both.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) has been collecting significant revenue in recent years due to an upswing in tourism. However there have been problems with the mechanisms by which part of this revenue is used to improve the well-being resident pastoralists, to strengthen and support the pastoral economy, and to provide some of the essential services which the Maasai community now expects. With cattle dips and vaccines not regularly available, livestock have also been at greater risk of disease, and transmission between wildlife and livestock has become more of an issue. In this situation, Maasai political support for the NCAA has been reduced, many Maasai have supported proposals for change which could be detrimental to the conservation status of the area, and in real terms, vulnerable species such as the black rhino have been poached with impunity.

In recent years, with decreasing per-capita income and holdings, the Maasai community successfully lobbied Government for permission to practice limited agriculture in the area. While this concession was a political achievement for the community, and has had a beneficial impact on their food security (and probably nutritional status) this break with the conservation ethic of the area may eventually come with a very high price tag attached. Already many non-Maasai are using Maasai ‘fronts’ to gain access to land for farming within the area, thus effectively alienating those lands from Maasai use.

A number of promising initiatives are currently being negotiated to reinvigorate synergy between conservation and pastoralism at NCA. A new General Management Plan (GMP) has been prepared and approved with extensive participation from both pastoralists and conservationists. The GMP makes the areas in which conservation and pastoralism can complement each other more explicit. Scandinavian donors working with the NCAA and the Maasai community are strengthening the economic basis of the livestock economy of the residents, while the NCAA itself is working on a strategy to revitalize its Community Development Department and basic social services.

2.2 Lands adjacent to national parks in northern Tanzania

Maasai lands surround many of Tanzania's most famous and economically important parks including Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Kilimanjaro. In these areas, the lands still held and grazed by the Maasai frequently provide the last remaining corridor and dispersal areas for wildlife from, and between, National Parks and are considered essential for the long term viability of large wildlife populations. Maintaining the Maasai preference for livestock keeping rather than farming in these areas is essential for the maintenance of biological diversity, as well as to build tourism as part of a broader economic base.

On these Maasai lands outside parks, both pastoralism and conservation operate in a tenurial vacuum. While in a few cases the Maasai have acquired title deed to their lands, elsewhere the traditional tenure of pastoralists is not formalized, but the land is referred to as ‘open’ area. leaving it free to be claimed and exploited by charcoal burners and farmers. Likewise although these areas may be gazetted as “Game Controlled Areas”, a farmer who has settled a piece of land has the right to shoot animals crossing it as a crop protection measure.

Safari hunting occurs in most of these areas, but there are problems in its regulation, and quotas are not set or monitored on a scientific basis. Virtually all of the revenue from hunting accrues to the central government. Thus wildlife does not generally add to the local economic base.

In a few areas, National Parks have assisted pastoral communities with water, health and education projects as part of a park outreach program. Private sector eco-tourism initiatives have also benefitted pastoralists. In one such scheme near Tarangire National Park, pastoralists are now using revenues from a campsite, rather than the traditional ‘tax’ of one cow per household, to maintain their borehole.

Very significant potential exists to strengthen both the ecological and economic benefits of a wildlife/livestock alliance in these areas by putting in place community-based management regimes using sound, but simple, management plans for land and resource use. AWF is promoting such management regimes through its Community Conservation Service Centre (CCSC) in Arusha.

3. Kenya

3.1 Pastoralism and reforestation in Turkana

In the case studies above, ‘wildlife has largely meant the game animals of the African plain. However planners and policy advisors frequently overlook the important relationship between pastoralism and the conservation of woody vegetation. Trees are essential in dry-land sylvo-pastoral systems. Woody vegetation survives better, for longer periods of time, than non-woody vegetation, and often yields more, with a higher nutritional value, at critical periods. Pastoralist management recognises this value and works to retain woody vegetation as a resource.

Dramatic revegetation of formerly bare ground occurred at Lorugum, Turkana, Kenya where there was a large famine relief camp in the late 1960s and early 1970s. People had cut down most of the existing vegetation, except for some riverine forest, for making houses, fences or fuel. As the effects of the famine receded, the people gradually acquired livestock, mainly goats. The goats fed in the riverine forest and consumed Acacia tortilis pods which were then deposited in their droppings. With the onset of good rains these pods germinated, and the chief of the area, together with the elders, decided to conserve the natural regeneration of Acacia tortilis.

Livestock management cannot be considered purely in terms of animal science as there are linkages to many other disciplines and systems that concern water, fodder and cultural values. If an area becomes dry, it is normally power of access to water and fodder that is central to pastoralism. In Turkana, herd owners depend on pods from Acacia tortilis and other trees along the major water courses to provide fodder during the dry season.

Given the vital importance which riverine forest plays in this livestock production system, the Turkana have developed usufruct rights to crucial areas of trees, or Ekwar. People own their ekwar for long periods of time, often in excess of two generations, and a number of important species are particularly protected by custom. The key issue here is that the complex pastoralist community use rights over wildlife resources are employed to maintain their function in decreasing risk, and increasing resilience of the system.

Acknowledging and supporting the conservation and regeneration of trees in this area is essential to the maintenance of the livestock production system. Likewise any disturbance in the flow of the river on which the riverine forest depends, such as that for irrigated agriculture schemes and dams, would have profound impacts on both the environment and livestock.

3.2 Livestock and wildlife use on privately-owned ranches and community lands

A case-study currently being undertaken by the African Wildlife Foundation is investigating the conditions under which wildlife management offers a competetive commercial rate of return compared with other land-use options, on private and communal lands. While not ignoring the non-commercial factors affecting landholder decision-making about wildlife resources, the study takes the underlying hypothesis that wildlife must yield acceptable financial returns when compared with alternative uses and investments, if it is to be conserved.

Initial results from a rangeland area of privately-owned ranches surrounded by community lands, indicate the potential for combining commercial returns from wildlife (consumptive and non-consumptive) and livestock in the same area. Preliminary study findings show that, under current management, commercial returns from combining livestock and wildlife land uses can exceed livestock alone by a factor of four to one. An indication of the ranch owners commercial decision-making in favour of wildlife is that they are prepared to accept fairly heavy livestock losses to predation, in order to maintain predators as part of the package for lucrative wildlife tourism.

To put this in perspective, these figures concern lower potential lands. Economic and commercial analyses for higher potential lands adjacent to rangeland areas, indicate that for purely commercial returns and given favourable climatic conditions, intensive agriculture can out-compete livestock-wildlife combinations in the shortterm. This highlights the importance of tenure issues, to include rich patch areas within a lower potential system, where a longer-term approach to productivity and sustainability are desirable.

Conclusions and recommendations

The examples above highlight several pervasive issues-centering on land use, with elements of conflict, cooperation, scale and process. If the thesis is accepted that livestock production and wildlife conservation can be combined to their mutual benefit, we have to look for practical ways to shift the balance of land use in their favour, in key areas. Targeted research should be closely linked in to practice and implementation to be of value in influencing land-use decisions and management. The following are points which combine research and practice, and which require follow-up and support.

Partnerships and collaboration are essential for tackling the challenges inherent in the above. To do so, we will need to overcome narrowly focused agendas, and defensive attitudes that were apparent in some of the contributions to the electronic conference that preceded this gathering.

I leave the last word to Gary Meffe (1997), concluding a discussion of biodiversity and “base values” - a broader definition of human needs than consumption alone:

Cross-fertilization among different perspectives seems a fertile area for conservation, for there is much to be learned about the human mind and spirit that remains to be incorporated into our collective efforts. The more we can glean from fields such as the policy sciences, sociology, economics, anthropology, law and others, the better equipped we will be to mount the global efforts necessary to incorporate species diversity and human needs into a compatible package. If we ignore the latter, if we choose to remain within the narrow constraints of our particular disciplines, then I fear we not only have neglected an important tool, but surrendered much of biodiversity to base values that we failed to comprehend and may also begin to exhibit the signs of inbreeding depression that we know so much about”.


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