Co-developing sustainable options to shared useful resource dilemmas in Maasai land

By Dr Anna Rabinovich

I’m excited to affix the colourful and pleasant College of Psychology on the College of Sussex as a Reader in Social Psychology and Sustainability.

My analysis ambition is to deal with the worldwide problem of cooperation round sustainable administration of shared environmental assets by conducting impactful analysis that makes an actual distinction for stakeholder communities. It has led me to develop a number of interdisciplinary collaborations and to interact with numerous communities who face the shared useful resource administration problem the world over.

One among my current initiatives, funded by the British Academy, has taken me to Northern Tanzania, which is residence to Maasai, an iconic pastoralist tribe. One of many issues that Maasai pastoralists have been dealing with in current many years is soil erosion on shared pasture land. Deep gullies make the land unsuitable for cattle grazing, threatening livelihoods of the inhabitants.

photo of deep gully on the Maasai farm land

Historically, cattle are the spine of the Maasai financial system: Cows and goats are offered to assist cowl the price of housing, clothes, and college charges for youngsters. They’re additionally an integral a part of cultural id: “For those who don’t have a cow, you aren’t acknowledged as a revered member of the group,” we had been advised by native elders. Whereas cattle herds are weak to soil erosion, additionally they play a task within the onset of this devastating course of. Rising herds, along with shrinking of land out there to Maasai individuals, restrictions on conventional mobility routes, and lack of efficient grazing administration can result in pastures turning into depleted.

Most earlier makes an attempt at resolving this downside haven’t engaged with the social aspect of the problem. A lot analysis tends to depend on the data deficit strategy, which is predicated on the idea that the issue is barely there due to the lack of knowledge and knowledge. One factor this strategy doesn’t account for is the hole between attitudes and intentions. Individuals who face an issue might already know what must be accomplished, however unwilling or unable to take motion. To deal with this hole, it is very important take note of group dynamics, social norms, cultural values, and communication. In our challenge, we put native communities and social dynamics inside them on the centre of the whole lot we do.

photo of cow herd walking over dry earth in Maasai land

We designed a number of workshops with Maasai communities of the Monduli District, the realm significantly affected by extreme soil erosion. Our main long-term intention was to strengthen group cohesion by offering area for members to work collectively, to share present data – and to start out constructing sustainable plans for the longer term. We made positive that folks of all genders and age teams had been equally represented at every of the workshops, as a result of, equally to every other climate-related issues, we are able to solely win this combat towards extreme soil erosion if the entire group works on it collectively.

In the course of the first set of workshops members accomplished questionnaires, the place they shared their particular person opinions about soil erosion and attitudes to numerous sorts of motion that could possibly be taken to mitigate it. We collated that information and got here again to share our findings with the members. A few of these findings confirmed that many individuals believed that sure issues, equivalent to grazing practices, ought to be accomplished in a different way, however by no means voiced their opinions in group discussions.

Having seen the outcomes, group members began to understand that not solely they will do issues in a different way when coping with soil erosion, however they will do these issues collectively, and that may not contradict the group norm. So, within the subsequent set of workshops, by means of group discussions, we began constructing express group norms in line with sustainable land administration practices that may assist deal with soil erosion. It has develop into clear that speedy motion isn’t solely obligatory, however can be fascinating and permitted by the group, as a result of it’s in line with the Maasai methods of doing issues. At this level members would focus their group discussions on discovering finest methods to handle their land, appearing as a group. The thought is that as a result of these choices are primarily based on a area people norm and are coming from contained in the group (slightly than being imposed externally), they’d result in sustainable motion.

photo of Maasai tribe members gathered round a table talking and looking at workshop materials

Certainly, a number of months later, noticeable adjustments have began going down within the communities we labored with. Land administration plans have been put in place in lots of villages, and native champions have began lively work on selling gully restoration and prevention initiatives. Many communities have agreed to allocate sure areas of shared land to grazing throughout a selected time of 12 months solely, which provides vegetation time to revive and prevents additional soil erosion. Numerous group planting initiatives have additionally began, together with take a look at plots for observing results of planting and grazing restrictions on soil well being. That is only a starting of an extended journey in the direction of tackling soil erosion in Maasai land, and we’re hopeful to see how the group initiatives develop and help them into the longer term. We have now been working intently with the native District council in Tanzania to make sure institutional help is in place to take care of impression.

The strategy we’ve been utilizing to co-develop sustainable options to shared land administration can be utilized for different shared useful resource dilemmas as properly. On this challenge, communities are working to guard the shared pasture land, however there are numerous different communal assets that require safety the world over, from fisheries and coasts to shared city environments. When you’ve got a shared useful resource problem you wish to collaborate round, I might be completely satisfied to listen to from you!

Additional studying:

Rabinovich, A., Heath, S., Zhischenko, V., … Ndakidemi, P. (2020). Protecting the commons: Predictors of willingness to mitigate communal land degradation among Maasai pastoralists. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 72, 101504.

Rabinovich, A., Kelly, C., Wilson, G., Nasseri, M. et al. (2019). “We will change whether we want it or not”: Soil erosion in Maasai land as a social dilemma and a challenge to community resilience. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 66, 101365.

photo of Anna Rabinovich

Dr Anna Rabinovich just lately joined the College of Psychology on the College of Sussex as Reader in Social Psychology and Sustainability.