Why keep lions instead of livestock? Assessing wildlife tourism-based payment for ecosystem services involving herders in the Maasai Mara, Kenya

Osano, P. M., et al., 2013. Natural Resources Forum

Original research (primary data)
View External Publication Link


This paper examines the effects of wildlife tourism-based payments for ecosystem services (PES) on poverty, wealth inequality and the livelihoods of herders in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem in south-western Kenya. It uses the case of Olare Orok Conservancy PES programme in which pastoral landowners have agreed to voluntary resettlement and exclusion of livestock grazing from their sub-divided lands. These lands are set aside for wildlife tourism, in return for direct monetary payments by a coalition of five commercial tourism operators. Results show that, on the positive side, PES is the most equitable income source that promotes income diversification and buffers households from the livestock income declines during periods of severe drought, such as in 2008-2009. Without accounting for the opportunity costs, the magnitude of the PES cash transfer to households is, on average, sufficient to close the poverty gap. The co-benefits of PES implementation include the creation of employment opportunities in the conservancy and provision of social services. There is however a need to mitigate the negative effects of PES, including the widening inequality in income between PES and non-PES households and the leakages resulting from the displacement of settlements and livestock to currently un-subdivided pastoral commons.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-031-1
  • Intervention type: Protection
  • Intervention description:

    PES scheme: The Olare Orok Conservancy, the Maasai landowners are paid to voluntarily relocate their settlements and exclude livestock grazing inside the Conservancy, which is exclusively reserved for high-end wildlife tourism. The OOC therefore represents a specific situation where a consortium of private tourism operators pay pastoral landowners directly for biodiversity conservation in an ecosystem that is of high touristic value because of the beauty of the landscape and the presence of charismatic wildlife species that support their tourism business.

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Drought  Positive Mean per capita income (US$/AE/day), percent share of PES to the total gross household income. Combined with a critical analysis/appraisal of the PES scheme's impact on vulnerability to drought; their quantitative survey was combined with qualitative interviews and workshops.
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    The Maasai Mara ecosystem which includes the Olare Orok Conservancy, an area that borders the Mara Reserve to the north

  • Country: Kenya
  • Habitat/Biome type: Tropical and subtropical grasslands |
  • Issue specific term: Other


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: See climatic impact measure description - Combined with a critical analysis/appraisal of the PES scheme's impact on vulnerability to drought; their quantitative survey was combined with qualitative interviews and workshops.
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: n/a
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Mixed
  • People measures: Cash income diversification and poverty prevention Employment opportunities Access to financial markets Lack of options for alternative settlement Reduction in area available for livestock grazing Increase in land value Inequity between poor and non-poor participants Crowding of pastoral commons (potential conflicts) Social services through OOC Trust Increase in income inequality between participants and non-participants
  • Considers economic costs: Yes
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Mixed qualitative/quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: