Reviewing the Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM) as a strategy for sustainable landscape conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), Tanzania

Joshua Mwankunda
Published: 04 May 2021
Last edited: 05 May 2021
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Component part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Serengeti-Ngorongoro, Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979 under criteria (vii), (viii), (ix), (x) due to its exceptional natural values and in 2010, important archaeological sites in the area were recognized  under criterion (iv). In 2018, NCA has been also designated as Ngorongoro Lengai UNESCO Global Geopark. With its multiple international designations, NCA’s management system needs to consider a diversity of values which may appear conflicting. Established in 1959 under the Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM), NCA combines three management objectives: conservation of wildlife, promotion of pastoralists’ development and fostering tourism sector.  As a unique place where wildlife coexists with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists, challenges of population growth and land use change have necessitated the revision of the MLUM for enhancing NCA’s management strategy.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Food security
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Indigenous people
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Sustainable livelihoods
World Heritage
Increasing temperatures
Land and Forest degradation
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Infrastructure development
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor governance and participation
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 18: Traditional knowledge


Arusha, Tanzania


NCA is faced by increasing management challenges under the current MLUM, that includes, communities reservations regarding their level of involvement in the decision making process on matters related to governance and management of NCA. Support from NCAA has not been able to cope with increasing demands on an increasing population trend, most likely due to high human population growth, added to the effects of climate change and other ecological stresses. Indigenous residents’ socio-economic conditions have deteriorated due to food insecurity, water scarcity, income poverty, escalating human-wildlife conflicts, poor health and high illiteracy level. Increased human-wildlife conflicts are associated with increased interactions among people, wildlife and livestock.


NCAA, local communities, researchers, educationists, students

How do the building blocks interact?

NCA was founded as a governmental initiative, mobilizing human communities within the Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem in order to preserve wildlife, while envisioning communities wellbeing and tourism business development. After 60 years of establishment, the Multiple Land Use Model (MLUM) that was the basis for NCA conservation strategy needed to be reviewed in order to find alternatives for growing populations of wildlife, livestock and human communities that have been pressuring the ecosystem and challenging the balance of the MLUM, impacting landscape values. In order to review the model, it was necessary to understand the land use and ecosystems change over time. The use of aerial observations (BB1) enabled the discovery of several degraded landscapes and ecosystem conditions, as well as loss in the vegetation cover that would have not been possible otherwise. The development of a stakeholder consultation (BB2) based on the findings and assessment of the land use and ecosystems change allowed the involvement of local communities in the decision-making process regarding the alternatives and the future of NCA. A new management plan is being elaborated and the reviewing process is still oingoing.


The adoption of a new General Management Plan is the main expected impact of this review process. So far, impacts of the review have been:

  1. Environmental knowledge gained
    • Land use pattern and its changes: Detected changes of land use patterns by Maasai communities through settlements and grazing of livestock.
    • Loss of vegetation cover.
  2. Based on this new knowledge, practical planning of zones have been defined according to the use patterns, and communities have been sensitized to follow recommended uses. Furthermore, universities have been invited to undertake research to recover the lost ecosystem.
  3. Wildlife corridors have been restored.
  4. Initial development of ecotourism strategies as a result of proposed new land use pattern. 
  5. Establishment of geo boundaries for the proposed zones.
  6. Empowerment of stakeholders through the participatory process.


Having worked and lived in Ngorongoro Conservation Area since 2008, I personally observed with sadness that an area so rich in natural and cultural resources is deteriorating quite fast. Reduced vegetation covers and diminished beauty of landscapes can easily be seen by anyone like me who has been in the field so often. It was again so sad to experience how the community economy deteriorated despite the increasing number of livestock and tourism activities within the area, and despite great efforts of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority in increasing financial support to community health, education and stimulating conservation sensitive economic activities. The only positive thing I have observed was the increase in community populations coupled with improved health infrastructure.


It was a great joy to see the Government of Tanzania in 2018 taking initiatives to study problems underlying the Multiple Land Use Model, so that the natural resources will benefit the local communities through well balanced conservation and community development and their livelihoods. 


It was so exciting to follow up on the review process that was done entirely by a team of Tanzanian experts comprising of some retired NCAA staff, Tanzanian university professors and community members themselves.


It is motivating to follow up on the process whereby I have seen increased opportunities in understanding working relationships on conservation and community development among professionals working under a multi-disciplinary approach and with diverse education backgrounds trying to find adequate solutions. I have expanded my knowledge on dealing with conservation challenges amid dynamics of community development that cannot be static. I feel that I know Ngorongoro Conservation Area more deeply than I ever thought before. (Joshua Mwankunda, Cultural Heritage Manager)

Contributed by

Joshua Mwankunda Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

Other contributors

ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership