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Economic growth in Kenya the focus of seminar at Aarhus BSS

While Kenyan economic growth is booming, the country’s unique nature is suffering. Interdisciplinary research project based at Aarhus BSS aims to develop models and knowledge to allow for sustainable solutions.


Aarhus BSS, the Department of Management and the Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture hosted a seminar on 23 and 24 November in which 30 researchers from Denmark, Kenya and Germany met up to discuss Maasai Mara, an area in Kenya know for its population of lions, elephants and leopards and for its unique and world-famous migration of zebras and gnus.

The area’s ecosystem is extremely fragile, and many different interests are fighting for access to the resources.

“The challenges of the Maasai Mara are very complex. The people living there need food, energy, jobs and education. Their living conditions are challenged by climate change, bad governance and lack of jobs and economic growth,” explains Professor Jacob Kjær Eskildsen, head of the Department of Management and member of the interdisciplinary research project called “The Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative” (MMSDI).

MMSDI was initiated by ICOA at Aarhus BSS, and apart from researchers from Aarhus BSS, participants at the seminar also included researchers from the three other faculties as well as Kenyan researchers, companies and representatives from the local population in Maasai Mara. The university’s partners are Maasai Mara University, University of Nairobi and Justus-Liebig University Giessen (Germany). The president of MMSDI is Professor Richard Odingo, former vice-president of IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

“The project actually started with a focus on wild animals and conservation, but now everyone agrees that if we do not come up with sustainable economic and political solutions, there will be no wildlife for us to study,” says Professor Børge Obel, centre director at ICOA and chairman of the board for MMSDI. His research interest in the project focuses on how to apply the principles behind organisational design in the complex system of stakeholders and interests in Maasai Mara.

“Maasai Mara is a good example of the tensions which we see all over the world and which will only increase as the climate changes and population growth put pressure on the world’s resources,” says Pernille Kallehave, programme director for MMSDI, who arranged the seminar.

“In addition, Kenya is an incredibly interesting emerging market for Danish companies, so the Maasai Mara project will also provide us with knowledge on the business community and entrepreneurship in Africa. Both are definitely aspects which we need to focus on a lot more”.

During the two-day seminar in Aarhus, Maasais, businesses and researchers discussed a research and funding strategy for the ambitious initiative. Vital issues were also how research can make an impact on a specific region like the Maasai Mara.




The project has been on its way for 18 months. A strong founding group and governance structure have been established. So far more than 30 researchers are committed to the initiative.

At a Summit in April 2015 in Kenya, a broad range of local stakeholders gave inputs to identify where the challenges are. This is now described in the report “Maasai Mara – the challenges of a world unique ecosystem”

The partners have developed a catalogue of 36 research and development project ideas to tackle the challenges.

You can read more about the MMSDI at the MMSDI website.

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