MAASAI-MALPAI “TWO COWBOYS” PROJECT
The world’s arid rangelands are home to traditional subsistence herders, commercial ranchers and large migratory wildlife populations. Heated “range wars” have pitched herders and conservationists against each other in America and Africa as the pressures on the rangelands have grown over the past few decades.
In recent years a handful of herders, ranchers and conservationists from two very different continents came to realize that they face a common threat in land fragmentation. Largely unaware of each other’s efforts, a group of ranchers and conservationists in the arid southwest of the US and the savannas of East Africa took the radical step of working together to save the rangelands for herders and wildlife alike. Each group set about using preserving large living landscapes by adopting sound conservation measures and good business practices. In the course of a few years these initiatives have show than collaboration can work for ranchers and conservationists.
ACC spearheaded this collaboration having understood that the biggest problem facing Maasailand and the Malpai Borderlands is land subdivision and pasture deterioration. Like the American West, the push to subdivide the open rangelands and establish private ranches is strong because most Maasai fear losing their lands to farmers, developers and wildlife parks. But we know that subdivision of rangelands into small fenced ranches is not sustainable. Livestock need space to avoid drought in harsh times and take advantage of seasonal rains when they fall in one area and not another. The poor ranchers are likely to be eased out by the rich, causing even more poverty. Heavy permanent cattle use will cause grass loss and bush encroachment. This is what the Malpai ranchers learned in the course of subdividing the arid lands of Arizona and New Mexico. And this is what brought them together in the interests of restoring their lands and setting aside large common drought reserves for their cattle.
The program’s approach to rebuilding large carnivore populations is to:
- Reverse land fragmentation in the South Rift, thereby winning space for both people and wildlife and connecting the Mara and Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystems.
- Restore the large carnivore prey base, thereby reducing human-lion conflict and increasing income from wildlife-based tourism.
- Maintain and restore the practices that underpin coexistence between predators and people.