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

By Dr Anna Rabinovich

I’m excited to hitch 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 handle 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 various communities who face the shared useful resource administration problem the world over.

Certainly one of 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 bought to assist cowl the price of housing, clothes, and faculty 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 neighborhood,” we have been advised by native elders. Whereas cattle herds are susceptible to soil erosion, in addition they play a job within the onset of this devastating course of. Rising herds, along with shrinking of land obtainable to Maasai folks, restrictions on conventional mobility routes, and lack of efficient grazing administration can result in pastures changing into depleted.

Most earlier makes an attempt at resolving this downside haven’t engaged with the social facet of the difficulty. A lot analysis tends to depend on the knowledge deficit strategy, which is predicated on the idea that the issue is just there due to the lack of expertise and knowledge. One factor this strategy doesn’t account for is the hole between attitudes and intentions. Individuals who face an issue could already know what must be executed, 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 undertaking, we put native communities and social dynamics inside them on the centre of every little thing 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 notably affected by extreme soil erosion. Our major long-term goal was to strengthen neighborhood cohesion by offering house for contributors to work collectively, to share present information – and to begin constructing sustainable plans for the longer term. We made positive that folks of all genders and age teams have been equally represented at every of the workshops, as a result of, equally to another climate-related issues, we will solely win this combat towards extreme soil erosion if the entire neighborhood works on it collectively.

Through the first set of workshops contributors accomplished questionnaires, the place they shared their particular person opinions about soil erosion and attitudes to numerous kinds of motion that could possibly be taken to mitigate it. We collated that knowledge and got here again to share our findings with the contributors. A few of these findings confirmed that many individuals believed that sure issues, corresponding to grazing practices, must be executed otherwise, however by no means voiced their opinions in neighborhood discussions.

Having seen the outcomes, neighborhood members began to understand that not solely they will do issues otherwise when coping with soil erosion, however they will do these issues collectively, and that might not contradict the group norm. So, within the subsequent set of workshops, by means of group discussions, we began constructing specific group norms per sustainable land administration practices that might assist deal with soil erosion. It has turn into clear that fast motion will not be solely crucial, however can also be fascinating and accepted by the neighborhood, as a result of it’s per the Maasai methods of doing issues. At this level contributors would focus their group discussions on discovering greatest methods to handle their land, appearing as a neighborhood. The concept is that as a result of these choices are primarily based on a local people norm and are coming from contained in the group (somewhat 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 modifications 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 energetic 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 yr solely, which supplies vegetation time to revive and prevents additional soil erosion. A variety of neighborhood 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 direction of tackling soil erosion in Maasai land, and we’re hopeful to see how the neighborhood initiatives develop and help them into the longer term. We’ve got been working intently with the native District council in Tanzania to make sure institutional help is in place to keep up affect.

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 effectively. On this undertaking, 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. You probably have a shared useful resource problem you wish to collaborate round, I might be blissful 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 not too long ago joined the College of Psychology on the College of Sussex as Reader in Social Psychology and Sustainability.