Edward Loure

2016 Goldman Prize Recipient

  • Tanzania
  • Land Conservation

Edward 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.

Communal culture, communal land rights

Born to a Maasai tribe, Edward Loure grew up in the Simanjiro plains, where his family and others in the community led a peaceful seminomadic life raising their cattle in harmony with the surrounding wildlife. In 1970, the Tanzanian government sealed off part of their village land to create Tarangire National Park and forcefully evicted the Maasai residing within the park boundaries.

His personal experiences, cultural background, and education—with degrees in management and administration—put him in a unique position to lead the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), a local organization that has championed community land rights and sustainable development in northern Tanzania for the past 20 years. Loure was one of the first people to join UCRT, and together with his colleagues—hunter-gatherers and fellow pastoralists—began driving efforts to protect his people and traditions.

Loure and the UCRT team found an opportunity in one particular aspect of Maasai governance: its strong communal culture. It became the basis for Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO), a creative approach to applying the Tanzanian Village Land Act. Instead of the conventional model of giving land titles to individuals, CCROs allow entire communities to secure indivisible rights over their customary lands and manage those territories through bylaws and management plans. By formalizing communities’ land holdings and providing legal documentation, CCROs would help them protect their land rights and ensure the environmental stewardship of their territory for future generations.

Improving economic realities, promoting wildlife conservation

Their early work and experience with the Hadzabe paid off in 2014, when the Tanzanian government issued the first-ever CCRO to a Maasai community in Monduli district. With their rights to the land guaranteed by law, the community members are thriving. Their cattle stocks are healthy, which creates additional income for people to pay for medical care and send their children to school.

Thanks to Loure’s leadership and his team’s dedication, UCRT has protected more than 200,000 acres of rangeland through CCROs. With their land rights secured, a band of Hadzabe people are ensuring the survival of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle while generating modest revenue from carbon credits and carefully managed cultural tourism.

Loure and UCRT, along with national and international partners, are now looking to replicate the CCRO model throughout Tanzania, with communal grazing lands of nearly 700,000 acres slated for titling in the next year or two. Their goal is to scale up efforts so that community-based land titling becomes a key component of land use planning and management that balances the needs of Tanzania’s people, its environment, and economy.

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