Educational Learning Center in The Greater Maasai Mara
We as EDU Africa are extremely excited about the development of The Wildlife Tourism College of The Maasai Mara, an educational facility situated in the heart of the Pardamat Conservation Area in the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem. EDU Africa has been appointed as the Key International Education Partner for the College, presenting many unique opportunities for international academic institutions, faculty and students to get involved in research and educational initiatives in the area.
To fully grasp the importance of The Wildlife College and how it contributes to the long-term sustainability of the environment, one has to understand the significance of the greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem, the importance of the Mara Conservancies, and the role of the community that calls Pardamat home.
The co-existence of a community and wildlife
In Kenya, the Maasai people have always coexisted with the wildlife. However, due to the pressures of a growing population and urbanisation in the country, human-wildlife conflict has been on the rise. According to the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, wildlife numbers have decreased by 70% over the last 30 years. Following land subdivision in the Maasai Mara, the conservancy movement emerged as a way of securing land for wildlife whilst improving local livelihoods through lease payments, employment opportunities and associated socio-economic benefits. By contrast to traditional models of conservation (such as national parks), the Maasai Mara conservancy model represents an applied example of community-based conservation where the landowners receive direct benefits from the tourism partners.
Today, there are 15 registered conservancies of various sizes, and a total of 14,528 Maasai landowners. These conservancies, in combination with the Maasai Mara National Reserve, provide habitat for approximately 25% of Kenya’s total wildlife, hosting more than 95 species of mammals with the greatest densities of both wild and domestic herbivores in the country (MMWCA, 2019). The National Reserve relies heavily on the health of these community-owned conservancies which act as crucial wildlife corridors and dispersal areas.
The Pardamat Conservation Area
On the outskirts of the world-renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve lies a remarkable community-based conservation area called Pardamat. The Pardamat Conservation Area is unique not only because it serves as an important migration route that connects the bordering established conservancies to the Mara Triangle and then to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, but also because it is the only Mara Conservancy that is premised on a dual-use conservation model. This means the community’s 850 landowners have legally registered their 26,00 hectares of land as a wildlife conservation area while remaining to live and work on it.
Map Source: Maa Trust
The Wildlife Tourism College (WTC)
It is amidst this backdrop of critical community conservation and innovation that the Wildlife Tourism College of Maasai Mara has been conceptualized. The college will bring together existing learning centres, including the Koiyaki Guide School that was previously situated in the Naboisho Conservancy, to provide critical skills training to meet the increasing demand of the tourism industry in the Greater Maasai Mara.
This first-of-its-kind initiative is designed to be a catalyst for the development of a centralized tourism, vocational education, research, and community-capacity building hub within the region. The College will also serve as an EDU Africa learning center for international faculty and students.
- The latest in high-level training needed for future employment in the Greater Mara Ecosystem and throughout the region, including climate change adaptation, natural resource management, and international hospitality standards.
- A strategic partnership and student, teacher, and graduate exchange program with the leading Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) as well as other participating universities to elevate curriculum development and standards.
- Unique integration of global and local Maasai students for mutual benefit; allowing for authentic cultural immersion, social growth and global citizenship education.
- An on-site research hub, with participants from 5+ key international universities, to launch crucial impact measurements and further contribute to existing programs.
- A total capacity of 40 beds in flexible rooming arrangements of between 2 and 8 students sharing.
- State-of-the-art facilities that include learning spaces, an atrium, a library, and a viewing deck.
Academic and research opportunities
As presented above, The Maasai Mara conservancies present a variety of innovative and unique initiatives for international students and student groups to get involved with in the form of custom group programs, summer programs, internships, and/or research placements.
Custom group opportunities
EDU Africa offers fully customizable programs that are designed collaboratively to meet desired student learning outcomes. These programs include virtual exchanges (which are delivered entirely online), in-country programs (such as traditional faculty-led options that are delivered in-person and involve travel), or a hybrid format (combining virtual and in-person program delivery).
In-country, hybrid and virtual exchange
In-country student groups can be based at either the Wildlife Tourism College, The Wild Hub, or the Maa House where they can engage with various partnerships and initiatives within the Greater Maasai Mara area.
- Education: Engaging with various primary schools in the Maasai Mara region, either through tutoring, teacher apprenticeship, or recreational student programs
- Healthcare: Participating in education and outreach, for example in reproductive health
- Wildlife and Ecology: Engaging with African savanna ecology, restoration ecology, protected area management in Kenya, monitoring and measuring of wildlife, field survey techniques, or invasive species removal
- People and Wildlife: Analyzing conflict, causes, techniques, and case studies
- Engineering: Supporting with infrastructure maintenance and development, e.g. at primary schools
- Women and Gender Studies: Studying the dynamics of gender and inequality within the Mara ecosystem and working alongside organizations such as The Maa Trust to address practices that cause harm and marginalization
- Business: Engage with and learn from microenterprises operating within the unique Maasai Mara ecosystem
- Service Learning Placements: One to three-month placements for groups and individuals within a working conservation and research initiative based in the Pardamat Conservancy
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in Kenya: EDU Africa runs an annual assessed program for individual undergraduate students. It offers practical experience in the area of ecology and is split between the Pardamat Conservation area (two weeks) and EDU Africa’s eco-campus in Limuru, Brackenhurst (two weeks).
In-Country Internship: EDU Africa is offering eight-week internship placements based at EDU Africa’s learning center. Interns will be linked to mentors and initiatives in the participants’ chosen field. Opportunities include environmental monitoring, social research, reforestation and carbon capture, women’s empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, and others.
The Maasai Mara has long been a source of vital environmental and ecological research relating to applied wildlife conservation management. With the growth of the community conservancy model, there is now a pressing need to conduct socio-ecological research which explores the people-wildlife interactions that sit at the core of wildlife conservancy management. Students engaging with postgraduate research can use the learning hub along with its community and supporting infrastructure to conduct fieldwork during the research component of their studies.
MMWCA. 2020. About us. Retrieved from: https://maraconservancies.org/
MMWCA. (2019). State of the conservancies report 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.maraconservancies.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Conservancies-Report-2019.pdf
The Maa Trust. 2020. Map of Mara Conservancies. Retrieved from https://www.themaatrust.org/mara-conservancies on 02/02/2021
Maldonado, O.I., 2015. Maasai Mara Conservancies Cultural & Natural Resource Conservation Action Plan. Retrieved from: https://wwfke-giscoe.wwfkenya.org/portal/sharing/rest/content/items/15d39a4d8c8c41419c1dcb53a70e44f0/data
Basecamp Foundation USA. The Wildlife Tourism College of Maasai Mara WTC. Retrieved from: https://basecampfoundationusa.org/the-maasai/wildlife-tourism-college-of-maasai-mara-wtc/