Today we honor Edward Loure, a 2016 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Loure led a grassroots organization that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities—instead of individuals—in northern Tanzania, ensuring the environmental stewardship of more than 200,000 acres of land for future generations.
A growing demand for limited rangeland
In the northern rangelands of Tanzania, communities of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers have sustainably lived off the land for generations, in coexistence with migrating native wildlife. Maasai communities move their herds according to the seasons, taking care not to overgraze the land and share resources with the wildebeest, gazelles, impalas, and other animals that keep the ecosystem in balance.
Starting in the 1950s, the establishment of national parks pushed out indigenous peoples from their traditional lands, causing them to become “conservation refugees.” In recent years, these conflicts have grown. Urban migrants encroach on rangelands traditionally managed by the Maasai, and the government sells land concessions to a burgeoning safari and hunting industry. These deals were often made in secrecy, without consulting the politically marginalized local people.
The increased competition over limited land has not only disrupted the balance of the ecosystem, but also physically displaced the indigenous peoples whose existence and livelihoods had played a key role in protecting the wildlife and environment. Meanwhile, the revenue created from the tourism industry rarely flows back to benefit the displaced communities.