Land division, conservancies, fencing and its implications in the Maasai Mara, Kenya
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There is growing concern about the future of wildlife and pastoralism in the Maasai Mara as well as on the communal lands adjacent to the national reserve that serves as home to pastoral communities and wildlife dispersal areas. Of particular concern over the last years has been the increasing threat of fencing of what once was an open landscape. Although there are studies that have documented the increase of fencing and its possible effects, a thorough investigation into what provoked such a move by local communities is lacking. In this paper, we set out to investigate the causes that lead to the enclosure of what once was communal areas and the now increasing fencing of individually owned plots of land. We use empirical data from ethnographic fieldwork in villages adjacent to the Maasai Mara involving interviews, participant observation as well as analysis of documents such as conservation plans, reports, government legal acts and websites. We argue that the history of group ranches, processes of land division, the establishment of conservancies and the transformation of land into a tradable commodity can largely explain the processes of fencing taking place today. We conclude that in the long run the processes of fencing is not compatible with traditional pastoralist practices and may lead to further marginalisation of already vulnerable pastoral communities. By reducing mobility, fencing undermines pastoralism, which still is the mainstay of many households in Maasai Mara.