Human-wildlife conflict and mobile phone use among Maasai pastoralists near Tarangire National Park, northern Tanzania

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Virginia Tech

Mobile phones are transforming many aspects of rural areas in the developing world. Much of the early research on phones and related information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries has focused on social networking and economic benefits in primarily urban or agricultural settings. Few studies, however, have examined the implications of mobile technologies on pastoralist livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. To build on this opportunity, this study examines the impact of mobile phone technology on four Maasai communities near Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania. I asked the questions: (1) How do phones affect human-wildlife interactions?; and (2) What are the effects of mobile phone use on measures of human-wildlife conflict (HWC)? This research uses a mixed methods approach to address these two questions and test the hypothesis that mobile phone use reduces HWC. Qualitative group interviews revealed that households use phones to manage wildlife interactions in every aspect of their lives - especially when the interactions relate to pastoralism and crop-based agriculture. Maasai use mobile phones as tools of information distribution to mitigate and reduce the severity of effects of HWC. Multivariate analyses of survey measures of phone use and exposure to conflict (i.e., crop and livestock predation and human attacks) offer mixed evidence that mobile phone use is correlated with a perception of less recent HWC events. These findings provide an indication that the expansion of mobile digital technologies may be able to support livelihoods and biodiversity simultaneously.

Tanzania, Maasai, pastoralists, human-wildlife conflict, mobile phones