This page contains information on the major components of I-CAN's research activities: Baseline and exploratory studies, and In-depth studies.

Baseline & Exploratory Studies


A number of baseline studies have been initiated to provide the team a more complete picture of the situation found in the eight study areas at the onset of the project. This background information will contribute to inform the design of the research, capacity-building and knowledge mobilization activities to be undertaken by the Working Groups, the site research teams, researchers and graduate students.


Baseline study: Report on Maasai livelihood and household sources of revenues

Study on livelihoods and household sources of revenue in resident communities , including non-monetized products, and the place of conservation revenues and other benefits realized. The report described the challenges facing pastoralist communities and the livestock-based economy in the rangelands of Kenya and Tanzania.

Consultant: Michael Ole Tiampati, National coordinator of the Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya

[see report]


Research Scoping studies

In addition to the baseline studies described above, research scoping studies are being conducted on specific study sites. These studies will contribute to informing the formulation of research questions and hypotheses to be tested through data collection by local research assistant throughout the project.


From October 2015 to June 2017 ten of these exploratory studies have been conducted by Research Associate Jacques Pollini and a variety of site-based partners organizations, with the help of I-CAN supported interns and students. A list of these studies is available here. Reports can be accessed on the “Member Login” page.

Click here to see a map of the sites where research scoping studies have been carried out as of July 2017.


In-Depth Studies (Faculty and Student Projects)


This section presents a brief description of the various field studies to be undertaken by I-CAN researchers, graduate students, and partners in the 8 study areas. Informed by the baseline and research scoping studies, these local studies will include long-term ethnographic engagements in the 8 study sites to investigate conservation organization membership, rules of operation, decision-making, offices and authority, enforcement processes, land holding, tenure systems and governance dynamics and livelihood and resource extraction transactions, including conservation revenues and incentives.

Theses, publications, internship reports and other outputs will be made available on the “Publications and Outputs” page.


Faculty Research Initiatives

[Coming soon]


Student Projects


Graduate student research

Since I-CAN’s inception, 3 MA and 10 PhD students have been working on in-depth thesis research projects in I-CAN sites. I-CAN graduate students based in Canadian universities who have completed or will complete their thesis or dissertation this year conducted their research at the following sites: Loliondo (Emmanuel Kileli), Enduimet (Victor Wright), Natron (Alicia Mori), South Rift (Kathleen Godfrey and Jennifer Glassco) and Laikipia (Graham Fox). New graduate students are currently doing their field work in Tarangire (Justin Raycraft), and Mara/Loita (Evan Kariuki Kirigia). Graduate students Daniel Rogei Salau and Klerkson Lugusa will begin field work in new research sites, not initially planned, in Olkaria (in between Lake Naivasha and Lake Magadi) and Samburu respectively. I-CAN has also provided scholarships to more than 20 undergraduate and graduate students studying at East African universities. Details on their research projects are forthcoming.


Undergraduate and Interns’ Research

Over summers 2016 and 2017, I-CAN partner organizations hosted eight McGill Interns, who helped carry out program activities for their host organization and also conducted independent undergraduate research projects. Interns’ research documents the activities of I-CAN partner organizations and helps provide ongoing monitoring of land tenure dynamics. For example, see this summary of Kathleen Godfrey and Christina Puzzolo’s 2015 internship research conducted with SORALO.

In summer 2016, I-CAN interns Christina Puzzolo and Kathleen Godfrey, based at Lale’enok Resource Centre with one of I-CAN’s South Rift partners, SORALO (South Rift Association of Land Owners), documented an ongoing land case that has plagued the area for decades. Their perspective was purely from the Olkiramatian and Shompole side of the Narok/Kajiado County borders, thus represents only one facet of this very complex history. The story of this struggle—between the Maasai of Olkiramatian and Shompole group ranches and a wealthy company named Nguruman Ltd —involves tactical prowess, deceit, and the obstruction of justice. Existing only in court affidavits, the minds of lawyers and select community members, and a short case study (see Galaty, 2012), the details of the elaborate land grab of the Nguruman Escarpment have yet to reach a wide audience. The aim of this paper is to provide an accurate retelling of the events that characterize a decades-old boundary dispute which has tormented the members of Olkiramatian and Shompole. In untangling the complexities of this case and the challenges of navigating a hostile legal environment, the paper sheds light on the realities of Maasai resistance to land grabbing at a local scale, with global implications. 

Before 2016, undergraduate interns from McGill University and Utrecht University, carried out research related to the Pastoral Property and Poverty research project in some of I-CAN’s sites with I-CAN partner organizations.