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Using Geospatial Analysis to Assess the Influence of Land-Use Change and Conservation on Pastoralist Access to Drought Resources

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Drought resource areas (DRAs) maintain natural-resource availability during periods of low rainfall, and are critical for sustaining wildlife, livestock and human communities. This study analysed remote sensing data at two spatial scales in order to assess the distribution of DRAs relative to landuse changes and conservation efforts in East Africa. Results suggest that cultivation has exerted an especially strong influence on rangeland DRA availability across the Kenya/Tanzania border region, but conservation areas also contained a disproportionate area of DRAs. For a local scale within the region (the Simanjiro Plains and Tarangire National Park), DRAs were more evenly distributed across land-use zones, but available sites were generally on steeper slopes. Overall, the area of DRAs that were not cultivated or conserved was relatively small, accounting for about two per cent of the landscape. The area of DRAs available to pastoralist households is likely even smaller, considering that there are a variety of other factors affecting resource access (e.g. risks of livestock disease and conflict, forage quality, resource management institutions). These findings highlight the scarcity and significance of available DRAs within this iconic landscape. More broadly, this study, together with previous research on the topic, demonstrates that remote sensing and ethnographic methods can contribute complementary insights into issues of resource access.
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Keywords: East Africa; Maasai; land-use/land-cover change; protected areas; remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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