When conservationists used to think about protecting land and habitat, their primary strategy was drawing a line around an area to keep humans out. But that hasn’t always worked, and has even been counterproductive in some developing counties. People working in conservation have taken note, as have those in other disciplines. This year, the Nobel Prize for economics went to Elinor Ostrom for her work demonstrating that local communities are often better able to manage resources than outsiders.
The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust exemplifies how supporting local communities can be an effective way to protect land. The Trust helps provide education, jobs, and medical care for the Maasai tribe in Kenya and northern Tanzania. That development is coupled with a conservation ethic that allows the Maasai to protect their traditional lands.