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Accepted Paper:

A perfect (good) storm for pastoralists: grass, viruses, and lockdown measures in the Maasai Mara, Kenya  
Joana Roque de Pinho (ISCTE-Instituto Universitario de LIsboa)

Paper short abstract:

With preliminary data collaboratively collected since the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic around the Maasai Mara National Reserve, in Kenya, we explore the (possibly) unique set of ecological, social and economic circumstances that underlie what looks like a local revival of pastoralism.

Paper long abstract:

Like elsewhere, tourism in Kenya was abruptly brought to a halt in March 2020 by the globally spreading SARS-CoV-2 and the measures to contain it. With this, the tourism and wildlife conservation cash flow to rural communities located around protected areas also stopped. Around the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR), Maasai pastoralists, who could no longer rely on income from tour operations and community-based conservation initiatives, were also confronted with harshly enforced restrictions on their mobility, sociality and economic activity. Yet, the past year has seen livestock production and trading booming, and Maasai culture flourishing. With preliminary data collected since the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, we explore this apparent paradox and the (possibly) unique set of ecological, social and economic circumstances that underlie what looks like a local revival of pastoralism. As lodges and conservancies are preparing to receive their first visitors since March 2020, our presentation looks at one year without tourism and conservation-imposed restrictions in the life of one Maasai family on the outskirts of the MMNR. With Maasai elders smiling and feeling vindicated in their preference for cattle over other livelihood strategies, we reflect on the social-ecological processes initiated by the pandemic containment measures, the time-tested resilience of Maasai pastoralism to disasters, and Maasai aspirations for the post-pandemic coexistence of people, cattle and wildlife.

Panel P048
The impacts of Covid-19 on tourism and conservation in dryland communities