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Savannah Ecology and Community-Based Conservation

Faculty-LedFaculty-Led | Ecology & Conservation Kenya

Overview

While the Maasai Mara National Reserve is famous world-wide, the communities that surround it are less well-known despite their greater overall biodiversity. The constant negotiation of the relationship between ecological factors and communities offers an excellent context for educational programs: over the last decade, changes in land use and an increasing human population have seen to growing pressure on this savanna ecosystem. While some areas have seen increased degradation, the creation of several community-owned wildlife conservancies has allowed for the regeneration of grass, the easing of pressure on water sources, and the slow return of Acacia woodland.  In sharp contrast to the National Reserve, conservancies provide a predictable monthly income to the communities that own them, as well as improved grass for their cattle for rotational grazing. This, in turn, allows them to derive direct benefits from conservation and improved land-management.

This program offers students an opportunity to intimately engage with the Maasai Mara’s unique ecology and community-based conservation model using a combination of theoretical and experiential learning approaches.

WHY MARA NABOISHO CONSERVANCY?

This program will be based in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, a 50,000-acre area set up in 2010 by over 500 landowners on the Northern border of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Naboisho’s open plains, Acacia-Commiphora woodland, rocky outcrops, and varied riverine vegetation provide habitats for around 400 species of birds and over 60 mammal species. This area plays host to some of the highest wildlife densities in Africa and with its rotational cattle grazing plan for the surrounding Maasai community, it is an ideal location to study human influence on a savanna ecosystem, ecology in general, and challenges to conservation in East Africa.

Learning Outcomes

During this program, students will:

  • Develop valuable intercultural communication skills through language and culture lessons and first-hand engagement with communities.
  • Analyze various approaches to, and the transcontinental applicability of, community-based conservation and grasslands management.
  • Critically reflect on individual growth and transformation by means of structured reflection sessions and transformation questionnaires.
  • Critically evaluate the various challenges faced in Kenyan wildlife conservation efforts as discussed during lectures, site visits and readings.
  • Learn to collect and analyze field-based data through various techniques (including, but not limited to, counting wild-life, measuring population densities and assessing erosion potential).

Note: Specific learning outcomes and activities can be constructed in collaboration with EDU Africa’s dedicated curriculum development team.

Contributors

Stewart Thompson

Stewart is a Professor of Biodiversity Conservation and has led the Spatial Ecology and Land Use Unit in Biological & Medical Sciences at Oxford Brookes for over 20 years. He has a particular interest in how threatened species use landscapes in response to policy and management initiatives. 

Much of his current work surrounds understanding herbivore population changes and movement patterns in protected areas.  For the last decade, he has been working on projects in the Maasai Mara, investigating herbivore response to the creation of wildlife conservancies and assessing aspects of eco-tourism impacts to wildlife.

Customize Your Program

Our friendly and experienced program consultants will work closely with you to develop your custom faculty-led program from conceptualization to execution. We believe every journey to Africa gives students the opportunity to learn and transform and we pride ourselves in our ability to create unique, sustainable and truly African transformative learning journeys.


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