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More Grass for Grevy’s Zebra

By Jessie Davie, Portfolio Director

At Maliasili, we believe that an effective conservation model must have people at its core. Thus, we spend a lot of time with our partners thinking about ‘behavior change’ – identifying what people need to do (or stop doing) in order to achieve conservation impact. Often the change itself can be fairly obvious, such as getting people to stop killing elephants for their tusks or to start setting aside time and space to let fisheries recover. But what is usually less obvious is how to bring about those changes- what actions will help convince people to stop poaching or to fish more sustainably?

Recently I had the privilege of helping the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT) – the world’s only organization solely devoted to the conservation of the Grevy’s zebra, a unique species only found in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia – develop a new strategic plan. This was the first major piece of work we did with GZT as a new partner in 2018, and as with all our partners we wanted to focus on clarifying their overall strategic plan as a foundation for our work with them. From the outset of the process it was clear that degraded rangelands are the greatest threat to Grevy’s zebra, so getting local people to manage rangelands in a way that will benefit both livestock and wildlife is key. What was less clear, however, was how to actually make that happen across a vast and complicated landscape.

In working through GZT’s strategy, we drew on a framework developed by colleagues at the Mulago Foundation called the DIF (Design Iteration Form), which focuses on stripping down the core elements of an organization’s mission and model for achieving impact. To use this framework with GZT, we mapped out the interventions required to bring about the behavior changes they seek (e.g. communities improving rangelands condition). What is great about this process is that it encourages simplicity, eliminating a lot of the complexity that the conservation field so often gets bogged down in, and instead helps bring focus, clear solutions, and practical steps for getting there.

In GZT’s new strategy, they concluded that above all else, they must help communities find ways to improve the health of the rangelands where Grevy’s zebra live. While GZT has always seen rangelands management as key to Grevy’s zebra conservation, they haven’t made it a core strategy until now.  But after developing a simple set of methods (diagram below), GZT is now equipped with a model that they plan to test out in different places and contexts, working with communities and partners across northern Kenya. We hope this renewed focus on healthy rangelands will take GZT one step closer to their long-range mission to restore this unique species across its range and bring greater clarity across all their work.


The following represents GZT’s methodology for driving behavior change to deliver impact in their community rangelands management work. Key to this approach is GZT’s ability to adapt to the different context, cultures and locations where it works, but fundamentally these key steps to driving behavior change will be applied: