The great spectacle of wildlife in East Africa is a natural wonder that exists in few places in today’s world. Preserving this great natural resource for generations to come can only be realized through sustainable tourism, wherein the local populations and communities are stakeholders.
In September 1961 Prime Minister Julius Nyerere made a statement known as The Arusha Manifesto to the Symposium of Conservation of Nature and Natural resources in Modern African States. This is often quoted today and seen as a landmark in wildlife protection in Tanzania. From just four national parks at independence in 1961 the network of parks increased to the present day of 16 covering 44,000 sq. km. In 1988 The Tanzania Government made a Wildlife Policy Statement that was intended to embrace the idea that areas outside national parks and game reserves with wildlife resources were a key to the survival of most national parks and that human populations in these areas had to become partners and be rewarded and encouraged to protect wildlife.
East Africa is famous for its biodiversity. The Serengeti eco-system; which embraces Kenya’s Maasai Mara, is home to more than two million large mammals and is the setting of the annual Great Migration, a unique spectacle. East Africa’s wildlife has helped the establishment and development of a strong nature-based tourism industry. Tanzania earns $2 billion a year from tourism, making it the foremost industry in the country surpassing mining and agriculture.
However while nearly 30 per cent of Tanzania is given over to some form of protection of forests, woodlands and wildlife reserves, only 5 per cent is under the strict protection afforded by National Parks. While the Greater Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCAA) form a huge eco-system that is intensely protected, most parks and game reserves are small and wildlife moves freely and seasonally in search of grazing and water into areas that are inhabited by man
Challenges to conserving wildlife
Wildlife, flora and traditional cultures are under threat as never before from shrinking land resources, human population growth, and the migration of people from areas no longer able to support them. Pastoral land use is being taken over by a patchwork of agricultural expansion that breaks up and prevents annual wildlife migration of species which can only survive in a large landscape. Dispersal areas and migration routes are becoming blocked. At the same time, the trade in bush meat is depleting wildlife as for food in the urban area continues to increase.
At a local level the pastoral way of life can continue to be practiced if herds can be limited in size and become part of the mainstream economy so that development needs can be met by rearing livestock for the market. However, this is a cultural challenge and perhaps as big a hurdle as any to the future of pastoral ways of life and wildlife corridors and dispersal areas. In East Africa the pastoral Maasai are the best known and iconic ethnic group, but they are one of many pastoral people at the cross roads. The needs of pastoral people following age old traditions of livestock rearing cannot be met, leading to over grazing, erosion and pressure on parks and game reserves.
Importance of a spectrum of stakeholders
In 1988 the Government published a new Wildlife Policy in response to the decline in wildlife. It recognized that people living outside protected areas must be able to gain from their wildlife resources in order to be motivated to protect them. However, over 20 years later major challenges still stand in the way of an equitable sharing of the benefits of tourism earnings, putting in jeopardy the whole concept of Community Based Tourism as a game changer in conserving the national wildlife resource.
Hoopoe and many other operators have had to adjust to an uncertain legal and business environment but we remain committed to having a presence outside national parks and to overcome the challenges we face.