Environmental conflict and conservation in protected areas: Case study of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok County
The relationship between environment and conflict has been in existence for a while. International wars have been fought over access to land and water since biblical times. Indeed, the link between environmental resources and the outbreak of international conflict has been recognized for decades. The distinction between modern day analysis on environmental conflicts and old is the recognition that population growth plays a big role in fomenting conflict and the distinction between non-renewable and renewable resources. This research looked into the relationship between environmental conflict and conservation. Of focus here shall be: Do protected areas contribute to conflict to surrounding communities? How do protected areas contribute to environmental scarcity? Which factors interact with environmental scarcity to foment conflict? What forms of conflict (s) have resulted due to environmental scarcity? Conflict model by Karl Marx is the conceptual framework that this study employs. Marxism asserts that special interest groups fight over scarce resources of society; interest groups fight to gain advantages over others and that competition puts society off-balance until dominant group gains control and stability through power. The resources under competition here are water and land. The methodology employed is case study; the area under study being the Narok County as it is the surrounding community to the protected area- the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This study finds that natural resource scarcity and competition can directly or indirectly lead to conflict in communities. Directly is where different groups directly compete to access pasture and water. Indirectly is where environmental scarcity or lack of resources lead to conflict in combination with other factors like political, economic, cultural, climatic and management to foment conflict. At the upper end fuelling this interaction to conflict is poverty. The conflict that is witnessed in Narok County is not violent but a non-violent one that has been fomenting over a long time. Root causes of natural resource scarcity interact with ensuing scarcity and the effects of scarcity to foment conflict. Finally, this study recommends the establishment of good Community Based Natural Resource Based Management (CNRBC) that will go a long way in reducing the negative feelings that the locals harbour towards the MMNR. The Maasai community does not legally benefit from the existence of the PA, they just lack enough incentives to protect them. The community is not also given the opportunity to participate in the management process, are alienated from the resources and are seen as obstacles to the conservation efforts in MMNR. The Maasai community has a right to the MMNR as they are the de facto managers of the resources found in it by virtue of their remote location; their proximity. CNRBC will provide equitable and transparent mechanisms for communication and decision making. This will build up on traditional mechanisms for resolving disputes among communities over resources to avert conflict that easily arise in the absence of fair benefit-sharing.