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2022 - 2026

Ecosystems in Kenya and Tanzania

CoCoST: better conservation approaches for Wildlife and Nature

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The Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) is one of the world’s largest ecosystems, spread across the border region that connects southern Kenya to northern Tanzania.

The GSME includes several national parks that attract visitors from around the world, sustaining the regional economy. In addition, the area's natural surroundings provide the local population with vast expanses of land for the cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock.

While indispensable for livelihoods, growing numbers of tourists and increased agricultural activity have also led to the rapid decline of wildlife and degradation of the land. As a result, improvements in nature conservation and sustainable land use are vital to the wellbeing of communities in the region. CoCoST aims to sustain the future coexistence of wildlife and human populations in the GSME.

CoCoST's approach

CoCoST is an ecological project funded by the UEF and partner foundations who share our commitment to nature conservation, and allows an international group of experts to engage in four years of research in the GSME.

The project has three key objectives:

1: identify the gaps and weaknesses in conservation knowledge

2: better understand the region’s ecological dynamics and interactions between different zones

3: develop practical solutions for conservation challenges

Building bridges across barriers

CoCoST is driven primarily by experts who grew up in the region, and who bring a profound understanding of the social dynamics and conservation concerns unique to the GSME.

The program includes five interconnected PhD projects that combine multiple dimensions of ecological research and conservation. Each approach helps facilitate collaboration, break down institutional barriers and build bridges across different cultures and areas of expertise.

CoCoST was designed by Han Olff, full professor of Community and Conservation Ecology at the UG, and a renowned expert in the field of ecosystems worldwide.

Professor Han Olff and some of the members of CoCoST's research team in early 2022.


CoCoST stands for Corridors, Coexistence, Synergies (x2) and Transitions

Corridors: Yustina Kiwango’s work aims to restore water connections in the GSME by examining a newly created corridor bound to extend the Serengeti National Park to the shores of Lake Victoria.

She is also monitoring the consequences of moving livestock holding areas (boma’s) away from the Eastern border of the park to reduce illegal grazing in protected areas.

Yustina was previously the Principal Conservation Officer at the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), where she oversaw the country’s entire community of national park ecologists.

Coexistence: Yuhong Li is investigating how different species of animal livestock may coexist with wildlife, with a special focus on the effects of rainfall and varying levels of soil fertility.

Her project will deliver recommendations to ensure the rearing of livestock can remain compatible with the GSME’s wildlife populations outside of protected areas.

After studying at the universities of Shandong, and Uppsala, Sweden, Yuhong completed an Msc. in Biology from the University of Groningen in 2021.

Synergies I: a joint cross-border approach to conservation in the area encompassing Narok county (Kenya) and the Loliondo area (Tanzania):

Jully Senteu is a chemical engineer dedicated to nature conservation. She will be collecting new data on land use, livestock, agriculture and economic development.

Her insights will provide the framework for dialogues with local stakeholders to overcome bottlenecks for policy implementation. In her previous role as a policy advisor, she was instrumental in developing the first spatial pan for Narok county.

Jully is a descendant of the Maasai people, a local community of tribes who are the native inhabitants of the GSME.

Synergies II: a joint cross-border approach to conservation in the area encompassing Narok county (Kenya) and the Loliondo area (Tanzania):

Fredy Ledidi works to facilitate more synergy in land use outside of protected areas, in close cooperation with Jully Senteu.

Fredy is also the acting head of the Department of Spatial Planning of the Ngorongoro District.

His previous work in the field gained national and international publicity, making local authorities step up their conservation efforts in the nearby Loliondo Game Controlled Area.

Transitions: Michael Kimaro is studying the first-ever elephant-proof fence (a so-called “hard transition”) to border a national park in Tanzania, along the northern edge of the Ikorongo Game Reserve.

His PhD project aims to mitigate intense conflicts in the region between humans and elephants. This project is followed closely by experts from the Tanzanian government and could provide the proof of concept necessary for the wider use of fencing in areas prone to conflict.

A former Eric Bleumink scholar, he completed an MsC in Ecology at the University of Groningen. He obtained a postgraduate degree in International Wildlife Conservation Practice from Oxford University.

prof. dr. Han Olff

Full Professor of Community and Conservation Ecology

Han Olff has been a professor of Ecology at the University of Groningen since 2002. In addition, he is the chairman of the Scientific Council at the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).

He also serves as a member on the boards of WWF Netherlands, Ark Natuurontwikkeling, and the Dutch National Plan for Biodiversity Restoration.

Professor Olff has a deep personal commitment to East Africa, and his previous work includes numerous projects that combine academic insights with conservation practice.

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