The Serengeti Ecosystem

The Serengeti is an iconic ecosystem straddling the Tanzania-Kenya border, partly protected by Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Parks, and by various other kinds of protected areas including game reserves, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and community-managed Wildlife Management Areas. However, the borders of protected areas seldom correspond closely to ecosystem boundaries, and many areas that are important to ecosystem function in the greater Serengeti (portions of wildebeest migration routes, for instance) lie beyond the boundaries of these protected areas.

Our focus was on the Tanzanian portion of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. The Tanzanian Districts within the ecosystem have a low per capita income and their economies are heavily dominated by agriculture and natural resources harvesting. People inhabiting lands in western Serengeti are generally small-scale farmers and agro-pastoralists dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. Many people utilize resources such as fuelwood, water, and bushmeat inside and around Serengeti National Park both for direct consumption and for sale for cash income. The greater Serengeti ecosystem also hosts pasture and water resources that are critical to pastoralist populations, particularly on the eastern side of the ecosystem.

Relations between the protected areas and many rural communities in the Tanzanian Serengeti are hostile. As much as eight percent of people adjacent to Serengeti National Park consider bushmeat hunting as their main occupation. Among people living adjacent to Serengeti National Park, complaints of devastating impacts to their livelihoods because of the Park (destruction of crops and predation of livestock) are common.

The mix of organizations and institutions having jurisdiction over important decisions affecting the ecosystem and the people living within it is diverse, as is the range of interests and values represented among various stakeholder groups. Recently, the Serengeti Community Conservation Forum was created to bring these diverse stakeholders together and seek some level of coordination and mutual problem solving.

The Assessment Report

Our assessment examined the array of these groups, organizations and institutions and the interactions among them, which together can be thought of as constituting a “governance system” for the Tanzanian Serengeti. The assessment was led by Alex Kisingo, a PhD candidate in the Geography Department of the University of Victoria.

Dr. Kisingo’s report can be found here.  For more information, contact Alex Kisingo: kisingoalex at