Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. James Butterfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Suhashni Datta-Sandhu

Third Advisor

Dr. Mahendra Lawoti

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Christine Moser


Kenya, wildlife, co-management, governance, empowerment. partnerships


Kenya’s environmental sector is embracing co-management to address major threats to wildlife. In the past two decades, the Municipal-Community-Private Sector Partnership (MCPP) model evolved to address the threats. This dissertation seeks to explain variations in partnership outcomes. It evaluates whether the model as introduced empowers communities to be conservation stewards.

This study hypothesized the impact of five variables. These are decentralization of power, elite support, capacity of community organizations, partnership formalization, and resources expended. The findings confirm that three variables are indispensable and two minimally influence empowerment. More decentralized management structures are enabling and supportive of empowerment. However, empowerment is only facilitated when decision making is anchored on strong elite support. Elite interests determine opportunity and community agency.

Elites are profoundly influential in facilitating or inhibiting empowerment. Contrary to expectation, greater community capacity does not necessarily translate into empowerment. Additionally, rapid formalization matters while the resource types expended are necessary but not sufficient to enhance empowerment. The elite support variable interacts with the five variables as they influence empowerment. Elites are coopted or engage coercively to enhance or inhibit empowerment. Other unanticipated intervening variables are also identified.

The dissertation’s central features are integration of within-case and cross-case comparative analysis and evaluation of path-dependent partnership trajectories. On this basis, I gather context-specific data to explore the experiences of three partnerships in major protected area complexes. These are Laikipia, Amboseli, and the Mara Triangle. I conducted interviews, observed ecosystems, and conducted intensive document and literature reviews. Snowball and purposive sampling guided data collection processes.

The lessons are three-fold. First, the institutional logic of MCPPs is not separate from the existing historical, organizational, social, and ecological contexts. The model is not a panacea, yet it is innovative. In two of the three cases it has had little impact on community empowerment. Laikipia’s decentralized management has enabled inclusiveness and has provided ideal conditions for rapid and proactive engagement of communities. The dispensation has reduced conflicts and hurdles for engagement. Amboseli’s and Mara Triangle’s exclusionary structures have created conflict and prevented community buy-in. Elite formations straddling bureaucratic, political, and local coalitions have prevented stable evolution and empowerment. © Jane

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access