Case study: Community-led governance assessment in the Mara North Community Conservancy in Kenya
In July 2017, a stakeholder-led governance assessment took place at the Mara North Community Conservancy. This area borders the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is owned by the local Masai people and is leased to 12 tourism operators under a shared governance arrangement. Since the Masai already have secure land rights to the conservancy, the assessment focused on the procedural and distributive dimensions of equity, with a strong emphasis on gender issues that emerged during the assessment. Three of the key findings were:
• Participation: There was a lack of representation of women in decision-making, especially in the Land Owners' Committee (LOC), the main governance structure of the conservancy below the Board, which has no women members. Women, however, are interested in the conservancy and felt that they should be represented in the LOC and its sub-committees.
• Transparency: Unlike the well-informed men, women lack basic information on what the conservancy is, what it means to have land under lease, and what their rights are regarding the conservancy. For example, women do not know why they are banned from collecting firewood within the conservancy and consider this unfair as men are still permitted to graze their cattle.
• Benefit-sharing: The plan for controlled grazing within the conservancy does not recognise the differing number of cattle heads amongst the Masai who own the conservancy. Those members with few cattle emphasised that members with large numbers of cattle unfairly benefit from the grazing benefits of the conservancy.
Over the year since the assessment took place, considerable progress has been made in providing more information to women members of the conservancy, and ensuring that they are well represented in decision- making processes. Progress on equitable access to grazing is slower but moving in a positive direction.
This is an example of an approach to equity assessment in which the assessment is designed to serve the needs of stakeholders at the site level. However, in order to be used in decision-making processes at higher levels, this approach would require wider application using standardised methods and facilitators.
Mara North Community Conservancy: a women's focus group discussing successes and challenges in levels of participation and transparency. ©Phil Franks.