photo © Tom Hill
Assessing impacts of human-elephant conflict on human wellbeing: An empirical analysis of communities living with elephants around Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
Tobias Ochieng Nyumba | Olobeli Engini Emenye | Nigel Leader-Williams
Human-elephant conflict is an often intractable problem that threatens the contribution of conservation interventions to human wellbeing and securing livelihoods in Africa and Asia. Local human populations living in key elephant ranges are among the world’s most poor and vulnerable people. In efforts to address this problem, previous studies have mainly focused on the direct impacts of conflict and applied standard regression models based on the assumption of individual-level homogeneity. More recently, human-elephant conflict has been seen to extend well beyond the physical, to the psychological and social sides of well-being. However, the impacts on human wellbeing have not been robustly explored, especially for local communities co-existing with elephants. We evaluated the impacts of conflicts on the wellbeing of local communities around the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. We conducted 18 focus group discussions with 120 community members in different locations and administered a questionnaire survey to 367 sampled households from 26 sub-locations in Trans Mara. We used descriptive statistics with appropriate statistical tests, including propensity score matching, to evaluate the impacts of conflict on human wellbeing. Before matching, the results of the descriptive statistics showed differences between households experiencing conflicts and those without in terms of gender, age, edu-cation level, household size, benefiting from elephant conservation, main occupation and number of income sources. Our matching results indicate the existence of a significant negative and positive impacts on four and one of our eight wellbeing indicators for households that experienced conflicts, respectively. Better conflict mitigation approaches and conservation policies need to be adopted to realize the harmonious and concurrent development of ecological and wellbeing objectives.