In this paper, we examine how the 2008–2009 drought in northern Tanzania contributed to and catalyzed the transformation of governance concerning the management of natural resources from traditional informal institutions among the Maasai to formal village-based institutions. Our central argument is that village governance in northern Tanzania represents a new, formal institution that is supplementing and in some important ways obviating traditional, informal institutions. Further, this replacement is central to what appears to be a transformation of the social-ecological system embracing the rangelands and pastoral/agro-pastoral people in northern Tanzania. In this paper, we document the basis for our claims concerning the institutional shift and discuss its implications for livelihoods and social relationships.

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