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The Tragedy of Individualizing the Commons: The Outcome of Subdividing the Maasai Pastoralist Group Ranches in Kajado District, Kenya

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Rutten, Marcel
Conference: Reinventing the Commons, the Fifth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bodoe, Norway
Conf. Date: May 24-28, 1995
Date: 1995
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5237
Sector: Grazing
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
Maasai (African people)
tragedy of the commons
Abstract: "In Africa, the early 1980's showed a switch to the adoption of the individualization of landownership and a shift away from other policies such as the socialization of land or adaptation of customary tenure. Also in Kenya, calls for subdivision of group ranches - the first of its kind in Africa started in the late 1960's among Maasai pastoralists of Kajiado District - grew louder. By 1995, 90 percent of the ranches ceased existing or are soon about to do so. Supporters of a group ranch subdivision state that it will raise standards of living, boost the ability to procure a loan, minimize the exploitation of the poor by rich households, and facilitate better maintenance of the existing infrastructure. They are echoing Garrett Hardin's theory of the link between overusing and communally held resources, a view embraced by World Bank officials in the mid-1970's. The Maasai ranches were considered to be a failure by the authorities in that the main objective of de-stocking the pastures was not met. In general, those opposing subdivision claim that the ultimate result will be the alienation of land to non-Maasai, the creation of severe erosion in areas where cultivation is to start, and the restriction of the movement of livestock. All of these arguments have been studied among a group of 500 Maasai households. The analysis showed that land subdivision has been most favourable to the most powerful. Whole groups of Maasai pastoralists have been excluded. Still, only a mere 10 percent of the households have a sufficient large parcel during the dry season period. Land sales to outsiders worsened this situation by a reduction of the area available and by buying of animals, using the proceeds of the land sales. These outsiders fence off their land for cultivation or act as absentee landowners interested in speculation only. The few Maasai that took a loan had to sell land because of not being able to repay it. Nowadays government officials and the World Bank judge the initial outcome of group ranch subdivision to be disastrous."

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