The Serengeti-Mara landscape is widely considered to be one of the most important wildlife habitats left on the planet.
The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is a critical component within this wider trans-frontier ecosystem. It is also a world-famous tourism destination and the anchor of Kenya’s vitally important tourism industry.
Its management is divided between two county councils – Narok in the East and Transmara in the western ‘triangle’. However, in the late 1990’s these regimes were becoming increasingly ineffectual - characterised by corruption, low morale and collapsing infrastructure. The situation was critical both for the Mara economy and the conservation of its habitat and wildlife – poaching was rampant.
Our Role: We were part of a team that formed a private not-for profit company that entered into East Africa’s first public-private partnership for the management of a national protected area – a precedent featured in The Economist magazine. An agreement was entered into with the Transmara County Council for the management of the western Mara Triangle whereby revenue (principally generated from entry fees charged to tourists staying in or visiting the reserve) was shared around a pre-agreed formula between the management company, the local communities and the council. Full responsibility for the management of the reserve was vested in the company, which issued a US$ 300,000 conservation bond secured against the company’s share of revenues to secure the assets and working capital to begin operations. The Mara Conservancy is now approaching its 15th year of operation.
Outcomes: Since its inception the Mara Conservancy, operating with just a 40% share of total revenues has significantly improved the status of this corner of the wider landscape. Road networks and management infrastructure have been rehabilitated, modern IT systems have been deployed to manage and control revenue collection and disbursement, employees are well trained and motivated, poaching has been arrested and first class services are being provided both to tourists and the accommodation operators who host them. A range of local community development projects around the reserve have also been coordinated and funded and overall the Mara Conservancy is widely considered to have been an outstanding success. Its management team now runs similar ventures on behalf of many of the local community conservancies that have been established around the reserve.