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A co-wife for the cow: Gender dimensions of land change, livelihood shift, forest use, and decision-making among Loita Maasai of southern Kenya

Westervelt, Miriam Olivia; (2017) A co-wife for the cow: Gender dimensions of land change, livelihood shift, forest use, and decision-making among Loita Maasai of southern Kenya. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Earth’s natural forest coverage is declining at the same time as government, forestry, and development sectors are looking to forests to meet energy needs, mitigate climate change, and provide food and water security. This is a case study of Loita Forest located in southern Kenya’s semi-arid drylands. The Loita area is a contemporary hotbed of competing interests in communal dry season grazing, biodiversity conservation, timber, and watershed protection. Very little is known about land change in Loita or cultural linkages accompanying it. The study uses gender to examine the intersections of three conceptual spheres of inquiry—culture, livelihood, and environment. To confirm gender linkages empirically, it establishes baselines in history and traces cultural and environmental change over four decades. Its methods are triangulated between remote sensing, oral histories, interviews, focus groups, and participatory resource mapping and transect walks. The findings present a new empirically-based understanding about the gender dimensions of land change. Dramatic declines in dense forest were evident along with transformations in gendered livelihood roles and intra-household and community decision-making. Wetland change dynamics indicate synergies and feedbacks with livelihood shift and underlying abiotic drivers. The thesis argues that change in this natural forest ecosystem involves a complex web of intersecting variabilities that include gender—a cultural factor that has not received much attention in studies trying to integrate natural and social sciences to understand remotely sensed land change. The results will fuel discourse about the historical basis of Maasai women’s social status by carrying it forth into the 21st century with recent changes in livelihood roles and women’s self-perceptions. It concludes with guidelines for gender-inclusive resource planning in the Maasai landscape.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A co-wife for the cow: Gender dimensions of land change, livelihood shift, forest use, and decision-making among Loita Maasai of southern Kenya
Event: UCL University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Maasai, Gender, East Africa, Pastoralists, Loita Forest, Land change, Livelihood shift, Forest conservation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040664
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