HE wore a grey German style moustache looking simple, humble but sharing the same table with high profile dignitaries including Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Investment and Empowerment, Dr Mary Nagu.
Noah Teveli was recently in Dar es Salaam to witness the official launching of a 25 minutes documentary film showing progress of 14 Wildlife Management Areas which have benefited from a 6 million US dollars (approx. 9.6bn/-) project funded by United States Agency for International Development.
“The WMA has benefited us a lot by not only helping us earn income to fight poverty but also avoid cutting down trees, charcoal making and poaching, we had serious problems before,” said Mr.
Teveli, a former Burunge WMA official. Teveli said conservation has helped the 20,000 people of Burunge attract private investment in infrastructure and hospitality which has also created jobs to hundreds of people in the village of Babati district in Manyara region.
“We have managed to reduce cutting down of trees and poaching by more than 70 per cent,” he argued saying Burunge WMA has also assisted to protect Lake Manyara from drying and Tarangile National Park from destruction.
Increasingly WMAs are becoming an important investment through which rural communities which take care of the wildlife that attracts tourists, get direct benefits from their resources. Support received from institutions such as USAID, are an important aspect that does not only help with fighting rural poverty but also promote conservation.
Before the idea of starting the WMA at Burunge was hatched with USAID support in 1998, residents of the village had very little direct benefits from tourism earning from Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park both property of Tanzania National Parks Authority.
Earning for the village peaked over 400m/- last season thanks to growing tourism business and private investment made by agents and hospitality owners. According to Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the 14 legally recognized WMAs generated over 7.2bn/- in 2006.
“That revenue has been reinvested into anti-poaching efforts, and community projects such as construction of schools, dispensaries and paying school fees for orphans,” said US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Robert Scott who attended the film’s launching ceremony.
Mr Scott noted that at the centre of the WMA program success is a strong partnership of communities, the government from local to national levels, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in support of conservation work while enabling people’s livelihoods to prosper.
“This is important because too often environmental concerns are seen an impediment to growth but we see here that this does not have to be the case,” Scott noted. Minister Nagu who hails from Manyara region, was full of praise of the American people’s support express government commitment to ensure that more WMAs are legally recognized to benefit from resources in neighbouring protected areas.
At the PM’s home, Mr Maige paid tribute to his parents for promoting conservation work which is now in the process of turning a buffer zone between the village and Katavi National Park into a Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
“Through WMAs, communities can benefit directly from tourism, tourism photography and tour guiding which is not the case with conservation areas which are under authorities such as TANAPA,” Dr Nagu said while launching the documentary film. Dr. Nagu said currently there are 33 WMAs of which 19 are in the process of being legally recognized while several others will follow as communities realize the benefits of establishing such facilities for conservation but also income generation.
WMAs are buffer zones between villages and official conservation areas such as national parks, game reserves, game sanctuaries and wildlife protection areas which are normally administered by separate institutions other than neighbouring communities. Currently, 350,000 people are benefiting from the WMA programme.
Based on the success of the WMA pilot activities, the government of Tanzania has now embraced the WMA programme as a national policy priority for critical wildlife areas outside core protected areas. World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Country Director, Stephen Mariki said since 2004, the Fund has been implementing a policy support program with funding from USAID.
The policy change led to formation of WMAs after enactment of Environment Management Act of 2004. “Wildlife Management Areas provide an important avenue in devolution of wildlife management in Tanzania towards its sustenance and plays a critical role in the country’s poverty reduction efforts,” said Mr. Mariki.
WWF’s future focus is to enable more WMAs get official recognition by continuing to facilitate implementation of various policies that support integrated conservation and development issues focusing on improving natural resource governance. “We recognize the dire need to have effective governance systems that provide for transparency, accountability and equity in the natural resources management which will be our focus,” Mariki noted.
The Fund has already opened an office in Mpanda district where a WMA between Uwanda Game Reserve and Katavi National Park is being planned. Mariki said the process of getting the Uwanda WMA may take another three years before getting matured.
While on a recent visit in Rukwa region, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism touted the WMA idea at Uwanda after seeing the devastation which poachers, farmers and pastoralists have done to both areas of wildlife protection. “The best way to deal with this kind of distraction is to establish a WMA which will directly benefit the people who will see the importance of conservation,” Mr. Maige noted.
With US support which has also introduced a ‘Cash for Work Program,’ to help communities develop infrastructure in their WMAs, more progress is bound to be made in this area which will bring harmony among ordinary people and conservation agents. The US has so far paid over 450m/- in salaries to WMA community members who work under the Cash for Work Program in five places countrywide.