Sustainable Africapitalism? Grassroots perceptions of Maasai Mara conservancies and their relationship with development
Courtney, Crystal Heidi Anne
Integrated conservation and development projects have been widely promoted across Africa. These often involve public-private partnerships targeting tourism. Despite this encouragement, there are conflicting views regarding their impact. Conservancies have emerged bordering the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. These conservancies are the latest in a series of attempts by residents to capture benefits and developmental assistance from the safari industry. Drawing upon 19-months of fieldwork, the thesis examines the contentious relationship between conservancies and development through a case study of Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies. The thesis analyses diverging interpretations of development between and within stakeholder groups active in the study site. Three key development indicators are identified: basic needs, economic implications and livelihood security. These indicators are used to assess how the conservancies are perceived to be impacting upon development, what motivating factors for involvement are, and whether this affects society evenly. Findings suggest that conservancies and their affiliated organisations are now widely seen as the main development actors within the study site. This is largely through the creation of community projects, income-earning opportunities and grazing schemes. The involvement of conservancy-based tourism businesses in these development initiatives suggests that inclusive business models are being adopted. There is still a degree of discontent regarding conservancies, especially within neighbouring communities. Successful project outputs do not always result in successful outcomes. Without steps to ensure that these outcomes are realised, community projects may be more beneficial for tourism marketing than they are for neighbouring residents. Significant disparities also remain in income distribution, although economic benefits accruing from the conservancies are now distributed more evenly than they were in previous community-based tourism attempts in the Mara. The most emotive issue amongst local residents is access to essential resources for the dominant livelihood, pastoralism. During the research period, more comprehensive grazing schemes were introduced which simulate communal grazing systems. These practices would otherwise have been lost following land subdivision. Some pastoralists maintain that fines for grazing illegally continue to outweigh other benefits, although others assess that they are beginning to see that conservancies can have a positive impact on their livelihood. Conservancy businesses adopting more inclusive strategies constitute a more conscious form of capitalism. Motivations for this centre around the importance of place, and incorporate an Africonsciousness. As such, the conservancies exemplify Africapitalism, a new concept within the broader inclusive business arena. To date, the effectiveness of inclusive capitalism as a development agent has been inconclusive due to insufficient data. This thesis begins to address this broad literature gap, and also expands research on Africapitalism to a new industry. Although a positive relationship with development is widely perceived within the study site, the sustainability of the conservancies is questioned in the face of multiple prevailing threats. These challenges can be recognised and mitigated against, but the future of the Maasai Mara Conservancies – and their ability to continue being development actors – remains uncertain.