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Natural conservationists? Evaluating the impact of pastoralist land use practices on Tanzania's wildlife economy


The land management practices of pastoralist Maasai communities have a major bearing on landscapes and wildlife habitats in northern Tanzania and play a key role in maintaining habitat for one of the world's most spectacular assemblages of terrestrial large mammals. Pastoralists manage lands according to locally devised rules designed to manage and conserve key resources such as pastures and water sources. Dry season grazing reserves are an important part of traditional land management systems in many pastoralist communities, providing a ‘grass bank’ for livestock to consume during the long dry season when forage invariably becomes scarce and domestic animals are stressed for water and nutrients. Because of the scale and importance of northern Tanzania's wildlife-based tourism industry, and its indirect dependence on communal lands under the authority of pastoralists, these land use practices have an important economic dimension. By conserving large proportions of northern Tanzania's wildlife ecosystems, local pastoralist communities collectively make an important contribution to the national and regional economy. Using data regarding the degree to which wildlife depends on pastoralist lands in different ecosystems, and the relative importance of different areas in terms of generating revenue for the northern safari circuit, the annual value of pastoralist land uses to the wildlife-based tourism industry in northern Tanzania is estimated at approximately US $83.5 million. The economic value of pastoralists' contribution to wildlife conservation highlights the importance of Tanzanian policies in land, livestock, tourism, and wildlife sectors prioritizing measures that promote communal rangeland management and support traditional land use practices.