Maasai People of East Africa

The case of the Maasai People of East Africa is an example of the detrimental effects of the one-size-fits-all policies for environmental conservation. Western organizations took over the land in efforts to implement certain conservation strategies. They set up a national parks to conserve the land and animals while also creating a tourist activity for profit. Many people believe that these are all positive changes. The local land gets conserved, people are made aware of the local people and the poverty they are in and local people are given employment opportunities. However, it does not always have such positive results. Igoe describes what the tourists see as a “controlled experience” because it is actually doing more harm than good to the locals. In this case the Maasai people used the land for their primary means of livelihood, cattle herding. It was vital for their economy and well-being. When Western organizations came in the locals were pushed off the land and unable to use it for cattle herding anymore. These western organizations did not take into account the way the locals interacted with their environment before implementing the conservation strategy they thought would be best. These western organizations were more focused on maintaining their profit then the livelihood of the locals and since they were higher on the economic hierarchy they had the resources to do so and the locals are having trouble fighting back.

They should have taken the time to approach the problem through a “cultural lens” and examine the way the local community is effected by the environment and vice versa. Then, they may have been able to implement a strategy for conserving the environment and wildlife without decreasing the quality of life of the local people.

*Below is a link to a 2013 article by documentary producer Mikael Stradberg about his experiences living with the Maasai people for six months and witnessing them being pushed off their land by Western conservation organizations.