Archive for Tourism & Environmental

TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In the final weeks of the year, the wise and the experienced book their summer safaris to East Africa, knowing that when January arrives and the masses do the same, availability in the best camps will disappear quickly. This makes the period a good time to judge the health of the region’s tourism industry for the year ahead.

The cost of travelling from the UK to Tanzania is now about 20% more expensive than it was this time last year. The increase is due to the removal of the VAT on certain tourism goods and services in Tanzania in July, plus the weakening of Sterling against both the US dollar and the Euro following the unexpected political events in the UK and the US this year.

The Tanzanian government cannot therefore be blamed solely for the price rises, but the tax increases certainly haven’t helped the Tanzanian tourism industry. While it would take a catastrophe to stop the congregation of large numbers of vehicle in the Ngorongoro Crater, talking to camp owners and operators over the last few weeks does suggest a drop in booking numbers in the smaller, high-end camps.

At the same time, over the border in Kenya, owners and operators, sensing their neighbour’s weakness, have introduced a range of special offers and are reporting a distinct rise in booking numbers. Even the now traditional fear of violent disruption that comes with an election year seems not to be affecting business.

This is the current reality against which news stories concerning Tanzanian tourism and conservation must be considered. Tanzania will always be a fantastic place to visit, but if the ambitious growth targets of 20% year on year identified by the Tanzania Tourism Task Force in 2013 are to be met, then stakeholders and the Tanzanian government must not forget the ‘challenges’ that could prevent the desired growth – or even, in the worst case, cause a contraction of the industry.

Mr Richard Rugimbana, Executive Secretary of the Tanzanian Confederation of Tourism, listed these challenges in The Citizen on 14 July as ‘multiplicity of taxes, levies and fees… …and wanton destruction of natural assets.’

With this last challenge in mind, it is concerning to receive an update from Serengeti Watch reporting that funds have been set aside for the construction on a bitumen (sealed) road between the towns of Natta, Mugumu, and Loliondo, the first phase of the proposed road across the northern Serengeti. The report refers to an unspecified online government document, but if it proves to be accurate then the Serengeti as a complete ecosystem remains under threat.

In August, The Citizen published a timely reminder that Europe and the US is not the only target market for the Tanzanian tourism industry. The newspaper reported Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Director General Allan Kijazi describing a recent push to market Tanzania’s natural resources to the Chinese market by hosting 16 senior Chinese journalists from various media houses on a familiarisation trip to Mikumi National Park.

With China previously being more closely associated to the plague of the poaching of Tanzanian’s natural resources, it is interesting to see a more positive connection and to ponder how a growth in the number of Chinese tourists could affect the very make-up of the Tanzanian tourist industry, from the style of accommodation offered to the language skills of field guides. (The Citizen, Serengeti Watch)

In December, just as TA was going to press, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, took a personal interest in the fate of “Faru John,” a rare white rhino imported to Ngorongoro from South Africa some years ago. Faru John is reported to have personally sired 70% of the crater’s total white rhino population. “I know that the rhino was taken to Grumeti Reserve in Serengeti under the pretext of having the rare and endangered animal breed in the location,” said the Prime Minister. “But in reality, it is under ownership of a private lodge.” Later, a different story emerged: that the rhino had died after an illness and been buried. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Jumanne Maghembe presented the Prime Minister with two horns said to be from John. Details of what exactly took place, including when and why John had been relocated and whether the dead rhino is indeed John, remain unclear and the Prime Minister has formed a probe team to investigate. Rhino horn is gram-for-gram more valuable than either gold or heroin. (Daily News, The Citizen)

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IS RUAHA RIVER DRYING UP?

Are the rivers in Tanzania at risk of drying up? The contested causes of environmental change

This is a summary of a presentation by Professor Bruce Lankford of the University of East Anglia at a seminar on 10 October 2016.

The facts are startling. In 2004 Bruce Fox, whose family run a safari and hotel company in the Ruaha National Park, pointed out that in 1993 the Great Ruaha River dried up in the dry season, with dire consequences for fish in the river, plants and animals in the game park, and the belief that it would affect electricity generation at the Mtera and Kidatu dams downstream (see below), which supply hydro-electricity to Dar es Salaam, Dodoma and many other parts of Tanzania. In more recent years, it has dried up every dry season. The Great Ruaha river drains an area the size of Wales and feeds into the Usangu or Ihefu wetland. Fox asserted that it was not a coincidence that the drying up had started after the World Bank and other donors paid for projects that increased the amount of abstraction of water for irrigation and domestic provision via so-called modernised concrete weirs which could divert much or all of the flow onto large areas of irrigated land in the Usangu plains – large state farms (now privatised) at Mbarali and Kapunga and many other smaller schemes. Other environmental concerns included the very large numbers of cattle in the Usangu plains, and one of the Government’s responses was to move them all out, in the erroneous belief it would ‘save water’.

Prof Lankford had already done work on the hydrology of the river, and was involved in two major research projects. With numerous other research projects taking place in the plains, Usangu has become one of the most researched areas in Africa. There were some important conclusions. One was that the amounts of water cattle could drink was not so much that it would make a significant difference to the flows, even in the dry season. Another was that the drying up had only marginal impact on the generation of electricity, because by far the greater part of the water flowed into the dams during the rainy seasons, and was stored in the two dams – only a little got through in the dry seasons anyway. Several minor causes of flow reductions were identified, including deforestation upstream, greater diversion of streams for small-scale irrigation upstream, and greater evaporation due to climate change, but none sufficient to make a big overall difference.

The accumulation, however, of water abstractions, including from small diesel pumps and the construction of the concrete weirs has had, over time, an impact. They allow large amounts of water, in some cases the whole flow, of tributaries to be diverted for irrigation. They were associated with water rights which gave irrigators rights to an absolute amount of water, even when there was little in a river. They were often not well managed, so that water taken out of rivers ran to waste, or was used in excess.

The conclusions, some of which are expressed in The Great Ruaha Restoration Campaign, involve rewriting water rights, prohibiting extraction when flows are low, and using weirs that divide the water proportionally, leaving some flowing downstream. Some progress is being made, but so far not sufficient to restore the flows through the Ruaha game park.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Value Added?
This June a familiar shadow fell across Tanzania’s tourism industry. For the past few years, in the run up to the annual budget, the Tanzania Government has threatened to remove the VAT exemption that previously applied to many aspects of the tourism industry’s goods and services. And every year, following a good argument and representations from tourism players to the highest levels of government, the threat has fallen away.

Until this year. As reported by Hugh Morris in The Daily Telegraph on 7th July, on 23rd June, Tanzanian tourism operators were notified by the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism that the exemption would be removed from 1 July.

The reaction from tourism operators was immediate as representatives of the industry pushed behind the scenes and in public for the government to reassess its position, citing the potential harm the changes will cause to the Tanzanian tourism industry and the potential result of making the country and uncompetitive and unattractive destination for long haul tourists.

The East African on 18th June contained a statement from the 330-member Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) that said the country was already charging 7% more than other regional states due to multiple taxes and that imposing the proposed VAT would cripple the $2 billion worth industry. Going onto explain how tour operators in Tanzania are currently subjected to 32 different taxes, 12 being business registration and regulatory licence fees, 11 annual duties for tourist vehicles and nine other miscellaneous fees.

Despite on-going protests and negative international publicity, by mid-July, no government climb down was announced and Tanzanian tour operators engaged in a confusing intercourse with their international agents with neither sure who was charging what and whether to pass on additional costs to final client. Cancellations began to be reported and Prof. Maghembe, the embattled Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism moved to allay fears about a fall in visitor numbers by saying to reporters (The Citizen on 15th July), “Go and see for yourself the long lines of vehicles bringing tourists into Ngorongoro and Serengeti. It does not in any way point to a decline.”

As the story developed and opposition seemed to grow, sources began
to indicate that the government would consider a compromise and reports began to circulate of leading industry figures considering approaching President Magufuli to plead their case.

If these stories suggested a conclusion to the story (for another year), they were wrong. On 19th July, the Citizen reported how President Magufuli used an address to newly promoted police officers to scotch any rumours of compromise and reiterated that all charges due must be paid saying that it was better to have 500,000 tourists who paid the correct charges, rather than 1,000,000 who do not.

President Magufuli has made probity and clarity of procedure the mark of his nascent presidency and his comments are understandable in that context. However, it is also not difficult to understand the frustration of all Tanzanians working in the highly competitive African tourism industry. They know that the Okavango Delta or the Maasai Mara, to name but two, have as much draw as the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater to many tourists who still regard Africa as a single country. The costs of going on safari are rising across the continent and so the end price of a package is assuming ever-increasing importance. The fear is that Kenya, which recently restored the VAT exemption on various tourism goods and services, will take a painfully large slice of tourist pie that had, until this year, been feeding so many Tanzanians.

A declining Tanzanian tourism industry will have three potentially serious consequences. The first consequence will be a significant drop in foreign currency earnings that will directly impact the national finances. The second will be loss of jobs as drivers’ services go unrequired and camps close. The third will be a setback for the cause of Tanzanian wildlife conservation – still, itself, reeling from the horrendous poaching epidemic of the last few years. In many parks and reserves it is only the presence of camps and the tourists they attract that protects these vital areas from poaching, habitat loss and unrestrained development. If camps don’t attract tourists then they become financially unviable and close, leaving the land vulnerable.

It is therefore understandable that many in the Tanzanian tourism and conservation sectors are despondent, but they are also frustrated, asking themselves why impose a new tax when so many existing ones go unpaid by so many?

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Are there any left?
This is the question that all who value the elephants of Tanzania will find themselves asking in the coming years if no concerted effort is made to tackle successfully the systematic slaughter currently affecting this most charismatic of species.

On 1st June, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania officially released the results of a nationwide survey of the elephant population, which estimates that there are between 40,400 and 46,600 elephants remaining. This represents a decline of 60% since the last census in 2009.

This authoritative study, funded by Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, and conducted in conjunction with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, included all of the seven key ecosystems where elephant have traditionally be found in large numbers.

The decline in elephant numbers in the Selous has been well docu­mented before now, with the historic low point being recorded in 2013 at 13,084. Happily, in 2014, the number was up slightly to 15,217, but, as Rob Muir, the Africa Programme Director for the Frankfurt Zoological Society is quoted as saying in an article in The Daily Telegraph on 19 July, this is probably due to the fact that their numbers have reached ‘a critical threshold’ and are so low that the poachers are unable to find them as easily as had been the case.

Alarmingly, this raises the spectre of the poachers turning their atten­tion to other locations with high populations – and the statistics bear this out. The 2014 census showed the other areas most hard hit to be the Malagarasi-Muyovozi and Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystems, where the populations were down 81% and 76% respectively.

Such statistics should prompt politicians into concerted action if they are to safeguard both Tanzania’s natural resources and the long term future of a tourism industry that depends upon the elephant and other threatened creatures like the rhino and lion. Instead, they often panic and say things that make the rest of the world sit up in surprise.

In this case, The Tanzania Daily News on the 4th of June reported how Natural Resources Minister Lazaro Nyalandu, said that TANAPA would launch an investigation into the 12,000 elephants “missing” from Ruaha.

However, it is unlikely that these elephants are merely “missing”. High carcass rates were recorded in all areas surveyed, which is an accepted method of determining abnormally high mortality rates. Additionally, not all carcases will be spotted: many are picked clean of flesh and hid­den by vegetation long before.

Certainly, many elephants have moved deep into the bush to avoid detection, or, as reported by a camp manager in Ruaha National Park who prefers to remain anonymous, clustering together in large numbers for perceived protection. Normally, in July, when water is still easily available, elephant will be dispersed and feeding peacefully in small family groups.

While the stability of population numbers in the Serengeti and Tarangire ecosystems provides a glimmer of hope, the Tanzanian Government should not under estimate the damage to the Tanzanian tourism indus­try that a widespread perception of unfettered poaching in the country will do. The African tourism industry is immensely competitive and the tourists will go to where they think the animals to be. Both The Guardian and The Telegraph picked up the story of the catastrophic decline in elephant numbers, following on from The Daily Mail and the BBC last year.

If the international media is consistent in its reporting on the conserva­tion failings in Tanzania, then it will take a lot more than some advertis­ing in Sunderland on a match day (Tanzaniainvest.com) to repair the damage.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In January, the Sixth Tanzania Economic Update was published by the World Bank. The tourism industry in Tanzania generated $1.9 billion by the end of November 2014, 22% of the value of all exports in that period. Although this is impressive, the number of tourists who visited Tanzania is just 11% of those that visited South Africa in 2013.

Considering the abundant natural resources in Tanzania, the World Bank believes that expansion of the tourism sector beyond northern Tanzania and Zanzibar to include southern destinations like Pangani, Ruaha and Katavi; plus stimulation of a domestic tourism market, could increase revenue to $16 billion a year in the next decade.

Echoing this need for expansion and investment, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, met representatives from the World Bank, the United States and Germany to explore ways to generate the $300 million that the Ministry have identified as being required to improve the infrastructure and tourism facilities in the Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha and Katavi National Parks. (The Guardian 27 January)

The US and German Ambassadors, plus Minister Nyalandu, had previously visited the Selous Game Reserve. This visit heralded the transfer of a significant amount of field equipment to the Reserve, improvement of infrastructure and the provision of training for rangers, all designed to assist in the fight against the poaching that currently affects the Selous. It can only be hoped that this continued international focus on combatting poaching of all kinds also affects the criminal figures con­trolling the trade in Tanzania who have so far avoided prosecution. (The Citizen 24 January)

Sustainable conservation of Tanzania’s natural resource is dependent upon the tourism industry. But Tanzania is not South Africa and so it is to be hoped that policy makers will develop a Tanzanian strategy for growth that draws upon international examples, but does not seek to copy them in their entirety.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

China and Tanzania’s Elephants
“The current situation for Tanzania’s elephant population is dire in the extreme. The country has lost half of its elephants in the past five years and two-thirds since 2006. Available evidence indicates it has since lost more elephants to poaching than any other country in Africa and is the biggest source of illegal ivory seized around the world. Its once mighty herds are being devastated by remorseless criminal organisations.”

So begins the chapter on Tanzania in the recently published report, ‘Vanishing Point’ by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in which the country is described as the source for the vast majority of the illegal ivory currently being traded between Africa and Asia. The EIA is an independent campaigning organisation whose carefully researched report (available to download in full at http://eia-international. org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-Vanishing-Point-lo-res1.pdf) has laid bare the extent of the threat to the natural resources of Tanzania.

The publication of the report created headlines, many of which focused on the link with China and the peak in the price of ivory in Mwenge Market, Dar es Salaam, when ships from the Chinese Navy were docked in harbour and when official delegations flew in.

‘Vanishing Point’ makes for sad, but impressive reading. As a report, it clearly documents, in great detail, the ‘epidemiology’ of the current poaching epidemic going back to its resurgence in the early years of the last decade following a period of recovering from the slaughter of the 1980’s. This in itself is a positive thing because, as any doctor will tell you, understanding a disease is the first step to curing the patient and, let there be no mistake, Tanzania is sick.

The current poaching crisis is linked to pervasive corruption through all levels of society, starting with the park ranger who divulges the details of a patrol for a few dollars, right up to the powerful individuals with connections to the highest levels of government who benefit the most from the trade in illegal ivory. Archaic and ineffective executive structures in the Ministry for Natural Resources & Tourism and other government bodies contribute to making law enforcement very difficult to achieve.

While this report deserved the extensive coverage it received, many of the articles it prompted did not clearly describe the context in which the report should be read. Much of what ‘Vanishing Point’ describes happened over the past 5 to 7 years. The authors make the point that since the end of 2013 (and the waves caused by Operation Tokomeza), life is not as easy for the poachers in Tanzania as it once was. President Kikwete and his government have stopped lobbying CITES to down-list the elephants of Tanzania and so legalise the trade in their ivory; the current Minister for Natural Resources & Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, has successfully secured $50 million worth of international anti-poaching assistance; and the revenue protection scheme has been re-instated for the Selous Game Reserve, a first step in providing adequate funding for sustained and effective anti-poaching operations.

As reported previously, 2013 was the first year in which more contraband ivory was seized inside Tanzania, rather than outside of the country. On 2 November, the Tanzania Daily News reported how Tanzania had been congratulated for the fact that 4 months had passed in the Selous without an elephant being poached (http://allafrica.com/stories/201411031541.html?aa_source=nwsltr-tanzania-en). Local sources are not keen to endorse this fact, but all agree that the numbers being lost have slowed.

On 24 October, the Daily News also reported the creation of a Rapid Response Team to combat poaching in the area of Ruaha National Park under the SPANEST Programme, Strengthening the Protected Areas Network in Southern Tanzania, a UNDP-funded project being operated by TANAPA, the Tanzania National Parks Authority.

With committed and concentrated action, and assistance from the international community, it should be within the capability of the Tanzanian Government to combat the disease of wildlife poaching once again, but they have to want to. Even if the land mass to protect is vast; ports and roads are few; the masterminds are even fewer in number. And it should be remembered, that if they fail, it is all Tanzanians that will suffer, not just the elephants. But the fight is a tough one that sadly has human casualties, such as those who lost their lives when a recently donated anti-poaching helicopter crashed in Dar es Salaam, as documented by Wolfgang T Home.

Those who deserve the blame in this sad story are not the Chinese masses who buy the ivory, hopefully they can be educated; nor the poor people at the bottom of the production pyramid, who risk all for a handful of dollars. Those who deserve blame – and punishment – are the few individuals who have used power and influence to pervert the course of justice, to gain (further) immense wealth, to destroy a shared birth right and to undermine the name of a nation.

Those who must be remembered and supported are the brave men and women who will not be corrupted and who risk their lives to protect the natural resources of Tanzania.

Tanzanian Government spokesman Assah Mwambene termed the EIA report ‘questionable’. The government accused the West of trying to spoil the good relationship between Tanzania and China and said that EIA had no proof.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Poaching
This dry season, tourist tales are of long day drives spent looking for elephant. Some find large groups clustered tightly; others are unlucky and return home without seeing one. It never used to be this way. Tanzania’s poaching epidemic is now much more than statistics: it is arguably a national disaster.

At the end of April, Tanzania was named in the Born Free USA/C4ADS ‘List of Shame’ as one of the top countries in Africa with the worst poaching records and the least effective government action to control the worst threat to natural resources in living memory.

Perhaps partly in response the growing international criticism of perceived governmental inaction to combat international poaching syndicates, the Tanzanian government hosted a Summit Conference to Stop Wildlife Crime and Advance Wildlife Conservation in May and signed a joint initiative with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to establish a new body for wildlife conservation. On 10 May, The Daily News reported the creation of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), to increase the revenue derived from Tanzania’s natural resource and to intensify conservation. Let us hope the two are not mutually exclusive.

The creation of TAWA was announced by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, who assured delegates to the conference that there would be zero tolerance towards the corrupt and inefficient elements involved in the protection of the country’s wildlife. In particular, 500 extra game rangers are to be hired and three helicopters await pilots currently training in South Africa.

Operation Tokomeza, the Tanzanian government’s attempt to combat poaching (see an article in TA108), continues to create headlines. In May, President Kikwete established an investigation into the Operation. Retired Justice Hamisi Msumi will head efforts to address the complaints of all those negatively affected by the Operation whilst also investigating claims that the Operation was sabotaged. Meanwhile, Tokomeza II continues, but without the early successes, or alleged excesses, of the original Operation.

Putting to one side where the individual culpability lies for the dramatic loss of natural resources through poaching, The Citizen on 7 July draws on the international media to provide a clear explanation for the driving force behind the trade. It outlined how the price of African ivory in China has tripled over the past three years, so that the cost of ivory in China is now ten times the cost in Africa, a profit margin that is driving corruption, crime and conflict across Africa.

The poaching epidemic in Tanzania must be confronted and stopped for the sake of the species targeted. Once they are gone, they will be extremely difficult to reintroduce. The continued existence of elephant and rhino has an existential value, but it also has an immense economic value – a fact should also be remembered by the Tanzanian government when considering other areas of legislation that affects the tourism industry.

Tax and Tourism
In June, in the run up to the release of the national budgets in East Africa, intense lobbying was carried out by the Tanzanian tourism industry with government officials to prevent, or adjust the timeline for, the repeal of certain VAT exemptions covering tourism goods and services that would have resulted in an increase to the average Tanzanian holiday package of about 10%.

Whilst the impact of such a rise on the numbers of tourists visiting Tanzania in the medium to long term is debatable, the issue was that the change was due to come into effect on 1 July 2014, days after the deci­sion and at the start of the peak travel season. The potential increased costs would have to be passed on to clients, risking widespread cancellations and Tanzania’s good reputation in the African tourism market.

The Tanzanian government of course has the right to determine its monetary policy as it wishes, but tourism operators were left pleading for some forewarning and an understanding of the realities of the ultra- competitive market that is African tourism.

In the event, the decision was delayed until October, leaving the operators waiting.

Serengeti Road
On 23 June eTN Global Travel Industry News reported that the East African Court of Justice had ruled against the Tanzanian government’s plans to construct a bitumen road across the Serengeti National Park, declaring it to be ‘unlawful’. Although celebrations broke out in court and across the internet, it should be noted that the ruling only specified a ‘bitumen road’, leaving open the prospect of a gravel road following the same route. So the battle goes on for the future of the Great Migration, the integrity of the Serengeti National Park and the reputation of Tanzania as a leader in the field of African conservation.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In April President Kikwete addressed a meeting at Chatham House, London, on Tanzania’s Transformation and Vision 2025. Despite the recent coverage of poaching, the threat to Lake Natron and explosions on Zanzibar, the President made no mention of tourism; he did, however, stress the need to improve infrastructure, develop industry and increase the local processing of natural resources.

Widespread poaching continues to drain the life from Tanzania’s national parks and game reserves. According to Martin Fletcher (Mail on Sunday 22 March), the Ministry of Natural Resources warehouse in Dar now holds 34,000 tusks – 17,000 dead elephants. That is still just a fraction of the animals lost, as confirmed by the recent Frankfurt Zoological Society aerial survey of the Selous Game Reserve and Kilombero Valley [see article on Operation Tokomeza]. On 25 March the new Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, sacked the Chief Executive of the Tanzania Tourist Board Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, accusing him of poor performance and saying his position had become ‘untenable’. The sacking may have been due in part to Tanzania not making the top three at the prestigious ITB Travel Fair. However, it may also have to do with the fact that the Mail on Sunday article came from a fact-finding trip paid for by the Tanzanian government.

Controversy continues over the proposed road through the Serengeti and the plans for a soda ash extraction plant at Lake Natron, both of which will, it is alleged, cause permanent damage to the charismatic wildlife that attracts so many visitors and the landscapes in which they live (see the website savetheserengti.org). The East African Court of Justice in Arusha has heard final submissions from both the Tanzanian government and the plaintiffs, headed by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, who are seeking a permanent injunction against the road in its present proposed form.

Sadly, violent attacks have occurred on Zanzibar once more. On 24 February, home-made explosive devices were detonated at the Anglican Cathedral and the popular Mercury’s Restaurant in Stone Town. Police recorded no casualties, although Reuters mentioned local reports of injuries. Although the event was picked up quickly by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and published on its travel advisory, it did not generate much media coverage.

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In November the Bank of Tanzania released data for October 2012 to September 2013, which shows an increase in tourism earnings from US $ 1.61 billion to US $ 1.82 billion. Tourism is now the strongest performing economic sector in Tanzania, outstripping all other sectors including gold mining, which had claimed top spot a year ago at a time of record high gold prices.

Loliondo land issue
One piece of good news for the Maasai population of Loliondo, if not for the directors of the Ortelo Business Corporation (OCB), was reported by David Smith in the (UK) Guardian on 7 October, when civil society groups claimed that the Tanzanian government has dropped its plans to annex 1,500 sq km in the Loliondo Concession for a ‘wildlife corridor’. Although it should be noticed that no statement has been made by the Tanzanian government on the issue, Samwel Nangiria, coordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group, described how Prime Minister Pinda spent two and half days in Loliondo in September with the Maasai, who reiterated that the land in question must not be annexed. The Maasai leaders are now in discussions with lands ministry to update the legal status of their land holdings.

If this report does turn out to be correct, the successful model of internet-based, international protest, combined with well-organised and politically engaged local opposition, may be followed by other groups threatened by large scale land appropriation.

Lake Natron
Another Tanzanian government large scale development plan received bad news in November when the National Development Corporation (NDC) published the results of the eight-month scientific study into the environmental impact of the construction of the Lake Natron soda ash extraction plant.

Their dramatic conclusion was that President Kikwete’s directive to proceed with the construction of the plant would ‘almost certainly wipe out East Africa’s lesser flamingo population’. The study demonstrates how the mud flats of Lake Natron are the only place in East Africa where the lesser flamingo can breed. The construction of the soda ash extraction plant would disrupt the movement and feeding patterns of the birds so severely that a secure future would not be possible.

By linking the project to the destruction of a species that has great significance for both Tanzania and Kenya, the NDC has placed a for­midable obstacle in the path of the Tanzanian government, who have dismissed previous opposition as “the work of the mzungu”.

Poaching
The poaching of elephant and rhino for their tusks and horn continues to be a tragic issue across Africa. Tanzania is suffering its sad share of the losses, although the extent is uncertain. In November alone, two large seizures of ivory were made in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The Dar seizure weighed over 1.9 tonnes and was estimated to comprise ivory from 200 elephant. Submerged in a strong smelling concoction designed to prevent detection, it was found in the residence compound of three Chinese living in Dar.

The recent wide-scale anti-poaching operation using Ministry of Natural Resources personnel, police and members of the TDF, code named ‘Tokomeza’ has been criticized as badly managed. Individuals were given the chance to settle personal scores and human rights abuses were committed. It was asked why so much activity occurred in northern Tanzania, in the vicinity of the Serengeti National Park, when the majority of the poaching occurs in the remote areas of the Selous Game Reserve. There are unverified reports that Tokomeza has been active in the Selous with a similar ruthless efficiency, but, as ever, stories from that area are difficult to corroborate.

Perhaps, in the not too distant future, human anti-poaching efforts will be assisted by drone technology. Following President Obama’s offer of assistance to the Tanzanian government during his recent visit to Tanzania, conservation groups in the US subsequently contacted the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington DC, which are apparently being considered. (Daily News)

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

The Loliondo Land Issue
In April the ongoing issue of land use in the Loliondo Division on the borders of the Serengeti National Park came to the fore once more as headlines declared ‘The End of the Maasai’ (Survival International 28 March 2013). This is an emotive issue that combines the themes of the rights of indigenous people, environmental conservation, histori­cal grievances, a perceived uncaring central government (with worse implied), and foreign hunters [see also TA 95,97,105].

The current issue dates back to 1992, when an Emirati hunting com­pany, the Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), owned by the business­man and member of the Dubai royal family Mohammed Abdulrahim Al-Ali, secured the rights to a hunting concession in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro. However the problem can only be understood in the general context of land use and the displacement of peoples.

According to the house blog of Just Conservation, an online forum for academics and activists interested in equitable conservation, the 1992 allocation was done with a lack of procedural clarity and without consulting the relevant community representatives. As the 1990s pro­gressed, there were accusations of dubious hunting practices, including the export of live animals, although these have not been verified or recently investigated. (http://www.justconservation.org/grabbing-land-for­conservation-in-loliondo,-tanzania)

In 2009, the severe drought experienced in northern Tanzania led to conflict between OBC and the local Maasai communities as the herd­ers endeavoured to water their livestock in an area where access was prohibited by OBC. In the ensuing conflict, a Police Field Force unit restored order with a level of force that resulted in the burning of sev­eral homesteads and accusations of physical and sexual abuse. OBC defended their position by stating that herders are only denied access to the water sources during the hunting season. This runs from July to September, which unfortunately coincides with the dry season.
So, when in March this year it was announced by the government that a 1,500 square kilometre ‘wildlife corridor’ would be created in the Loliondo that would displace an estimated 30,000 people and affect
Tourism & Environmental Conservation thousands more who use the grasslands for seasonal grazing, the local communities engaged in vociferous protest.

The story has interesting local – and national – political implications. In addition to the 2012 threat to blockade the Ngorongoro Crater (The East African 8 December 2012), one protest took the form of a mass burning of CCM membership cards by Maasai women. This move caught the atten­tion of local CCM officials who, according a BBC report, made the long drive to Loliondo from Arusha to denounce the proposed corridor.

The affected communities plan to lodge a legal challenge, but as a previ­ous action from 2009 remains unheard, they are not hopeful. However, on 29 June, Prime Minister Pinda told the National Assembly that the Government had “received complaints from various stakeholders and the people of Loliondo” and would therefore review its most recent decisions regarding the Loliondo land concessions and OBC. (Daily News and http://allafrica.com/stories/201307010357.html).

Serengeti Highway proposal remains live

Map of the possible Serengeti Highway routes (courtesy Nature)

Map of the possible Serengeti Highway routes (courtesy Nature)


On 27 June word emerged that the proposed Serengeti Highway, which has provoked international condemnation [see TA 97/99], may nevertheless still be a viable project in the eyes of the Tanzanian government. The proposed budget for the financial year 2013/14 appears to contain an allocation of funds to advance the planning and design of the high­way. This is despite the reported offer by the German government and the World Bank to finance the construction of an alternate southern route that will protect the Serengeti ecosystem and arguably reach more people than the original proposed northern route. The southern route would, however, not suit the interests of mining and soda ash extraction interests operating in the northern areas. (27 June Wolfganghthome’s Blog)

Tourism taxation
On 1 July the new Tourism Development Levy came into force. The levy imposes a 2% bed night charge on all tourist accommodation. Of even more concern was the proposal to make tourism products and services liable to VAT at 18%. This move had been adopted by Uganda but rejected by Kenya. Fortunately, on 28 June the Tanzanian Assembly also rejected the imposition of the tax, which in one move would have made Tanzania a far more expensive destination (in general) than Kenya – a dangerous move.

Edward VIII: The Lion King
And finally, on 28 May in the UK, a documentary aired on Channel Four entitled ‘Edward VIII: The Lion King’. The programme was a fas­cinating account of the transition of Edward VIII, in his time as Prince of Wales, from hunter to one of the earliest advocates of African conserva­tion. Working with the famous Denys Finch Hatton, after developing an understanding of the bloody reality of the growing hunting trend, the Prince used his celebrity to draw attention to the increasing threat to the wildlife and integrity of what we now call the Serengeti ecosystem. Which just goes to show that some issues have an enduring importance beyond their local significance.

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