Dar es Salaam — Giving local communities the responsibility of safeguarding wildlife habitat is the most effective approach to achieving people-centred conservation and economic empowerment in the country.
This transpired on Tuesday during the launch of a Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) documentary film at the Movenpick hotel in the city.
It was realised that, unlike the state controlled approach that necessitated eviction of wananchi from the wildlife habitat areas to give way for the “government” to oversee conservation in the local areas, the WMAs programme places the duty of protection and resulting economic benefits on the people themselves.
This devolution of wildlife management brings forth community incentives in terms of revenue generated from conservation enterprises and indirect ecosystem benefits.
These include improved forests’ preservation and stable watersheds, thanks to effective conservation oversight by local scouts resulting in human-wildlife conflicts being resolved.
The Movenpick event was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and graced by the minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office for Investment and Empowerment Dr Mary Nagu.
She later took the front seat with other dignitaries to watch the 25-minute film and thanked the American people for sponsoring the launch of WMAs. She expressed the commitment of the government in supporting such initiatives and creating policies that uphold sustainable land use with local communities as the top priority.
The film is called: ‘Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania: Promoting Community Based Conservation and Livelihoods.’
It presents the benefits and challenges of WMAs, highlighting some key actors and stakeholders who have enabled WMAs to achieve their goals.According to the US Embassy deputy chief of mission, Mr Robert Scott, USAID has been part of the initiative since 1998. It has provided over Sh9.6 billion for policy development, capacity building and stakeholder engagement in WMAs development, he said.
Mr Scott explained that since 2006 the programme has generated over Sh7.2 billion.This has been reinvested into anti-poaching efforts, programmes management and community projects such as construction of dispensaries, rehabilitation of schools and school fees for orphans, he said.
He elaborated: “WMAs currently benefit 350,000 people outside the government’s core protected areas.
It also has 20 more projects in various stages of development and aims to cover a total of 125,000km under protective status, reaching approximately one million people”.