A Century of Institutions and Ecology in East Africa’s Rangelands: Linking Institutional Robustness with the Ecological Resilience of Kenya’s Maasailand

  • Esther Mwangi
  • Elinor Ostrom


In analyzing the interactions between institutions and ecology, it is useful to evaluate the robustness of the designed governance system and the resilience of the ecological system that together comprise a Social-Ecological System (SES). In this chapter, we will examine the patterns of interaction between ever-changing governance institutions related to the highly variable ecology of Eastern Africa extending in time from prior to the British colonial rule until early in this century. That will enable us to examine three questions: (1) Which of the institutions that have existed during this time are more robust and why? (2) How does institutional robustness influence ecosystem resilience? and (3) What assumptions can be made about human behavior and incentives in light of this sweep of human history? We find that the indigenous institutions of the Maasai people were the most robust of the set of institutions studied over time since pre-colonial days until contemporary times. And, these robust institutions were associated with a more resilient ecology.


Ecological resilience Institutional robustness Kenya Maasai Pastoral systems Social-ecological systems 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esther Mwangi
    • 1
  • Elinor Ostrom
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Kennedy School of Government and the University Center for Environment, Harvard University, 503A Rubenstein BuildingCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Workshop in Political Theory and Policy AnalysisIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Center for the Study of Institutional DiversityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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