Archive for Tourism & Environmental

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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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies:

Murder of Father Mushi
Resuming my report after a gap of two issues, it is with regret that I lead with the sad story of the murder of the Roman Catholic priest, Father Evarist Mushi, shot dead at the entrance to his church on Unguja in February (see article on Religious Tensions for more details). In addition to the personal tragedy that is the death of Father Mushi, the incident contributes to a growing discourse on the alleged growing radicalisation of East African Islam and the increase in religious tension between Islam and Christianity. Such discourse, whether accurate or not, is to the detriment of Tanzania in general and Zanzibari tourism in particular.

Although there have been other seemingly similar incidents on the mainland, it remains unclear whether the Zanzibar incident can be attributed to a local dispute over land ownership or to a wider issue of religious tension.

British Airways pull out of Tanzania
British Airways have decided to discontinue their direct flights to Dar es Salaam from London Heathrow, effective from 1 April 2013. Despite being the only direct flights from the UK into Dar, the route was deemed to be no longer commercially viable.

Kenya Airways look to be the immediate beneficiary as they now offer the best connections and, generally, good value fares. However, industry insiders are now asking whether Virgin will fill the breach. So far, nothing has been confirmed, but watch this space.

Swahili Tourism Fair
Though the Tanzanian Tourist Board must be disappointed by the BA announcement, they had their own good news; the completion in February of an agreement between the tourism boards of South Africa and Tanzania to initi­ate a Swahili Tourism Fair for the first week of October. Due to be hosted at Milimani City, Dar es Salaam, the Swahili Tourism Fair will be backed by the biggest South African tourism promoter, Witch & Wizard Creative (Pty) Ltd, organisers of the hugely successful tourism ‘Indaba’ held in Durban each year.

The managing director of the Tanzania Tourist Board, Dr Aloyce Nzuki, stated that the new initiative is projected to double the number of tourists visiting the country and lead to enormous investments over five years. “Until December, last year, tourism figures stood at 950,000 foreign visitors with net earnings of $1.4 billion (about TShs2.24trillion) annually,” said Dr Nzuki at the signing ceremony. He added “we expect to attract more tourists with the implementa­tion of the Swahili Fair during the first week of every October.”

Tanzania’s ability to increase visitor numbers and tourism-related revenue was endorsed by the success of Tanzanian destinations in the 2013 Safari Awards, when Nomad Lamai camp won ‘Best New Safari Property in Africa’ (Arusha Times). Set in the rocks of the Kogakuria Kopje in the Serengeti, the Lamai is one on the three properties constructed in the area after the government released new tenders in 2006.
The Serengeti National Park was itself recently chosen as the 2013 global win­ner of the International Award of the Tourism, Hotel and Catering Industry and, more significantly, was voted one of the seven wonders of the modern world. These awards and the consistently high visitor numbers testify to the popularity and importance of the Serengeti ecosystem for tourism and conservation. What impact this will have on the government’s development plans for the region remains unclear.

And finally…

Miss Indaya (kneeling extreme right) and other members of the expedition (wfp)

Miss Indaya (kneeling extreme right) and other members of the expedition (wfp)

Miss Anna Philipo Indaya has become the first Hadzabe woman to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As reported by Peter Temba in the 8 March Daily News, Miss Indaya, a teacher at Endamaghan Primary School, reached the summit at 07:00 on Tuesday 5 March, accompanied by fellow Tanzanian Ashura Kayupayupa and seven Nepalese women. The Hadzabe, one of Tanzania’s smallest ethic groups, traditionally practice a hunter-gatherer life­style in the area of Lake Eyasi, but their lifestyle is threatened by current land use pressures. The expedition was backed by the United Nations World Food Programme, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Tanzania National Parks Authority and Childreach International. Well done Miss Indaya!

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TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

Just as in the natural world, when the months of April bring rain, growth and much activity in Tanzania, the three months since the last edition of TA have been full of incident in the fields of tourism and environmental conservation.

New Minister
On 4 May, the BBC reported that following the highly critical report by the Controller & Auditor General’s Office which described extensive misuse of funds, President Kikwete sacked the Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism. He was replaced by Ambassador Kagasheki, a man of whom much is expected, and who has reportedly taken to his new post with vigour. In his opening address to the civil servants of the Ministry, Ambassador Kagasheki was quoted as saying, “This is a sensitive ministry, which deals with foreigners, and there­fore there is an urgent need to cleanse its tarnished corporate image.” This was taken by many as a clear condemnation of his predecessor. Tourism generates more income than mining, agriculture, or any other sector of the economy. (Dr Wolfgang Thome, ETN Uganda).

Crime
In June, the circumstantial stories of an increase in the reported incidents of violent crime in Tanzania gained a human face when a Dutch tourist and a local camp manager were killed during a robbery on the borders of the Serengeti National Park. Conscious of the potential impact of such events, police searched the area in force and made a number of arrests. Three men have subsequently been charged and await trial for murder.

On the rebound
However, despite these negative news stories, and the western economic malaise that has hit the long-haul travel industry hard, the new Minister has asserted that Tanzania’s tourism industry is ‘on the rebound’, using the increase in international airlines flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) as his example of vibrancy in the tourism market. (Marc Nkwame, Daily News) Speaking at the reception for the inaugural Qatar Airways service, the Minister said the increase in traffic would benefit both the Tanzanian tourism industry and the airlines.

Kenya Airways recently started a six times a week service into KIA, while Emirates and Turkish Airways have expressed an interest in using the airport. To handle the increase in traffic, KIA has embarked on major terminal renovation and expansion that will cost over 25 million Euros. The airport handles nearly 700,000 travellers per year, and with the introduction of more interna­tional flights the number may reach the one million figure this year.

Sculptures recently installed in down-town Dar es Salaam by Karakana ya Wonder (Wonder Workshop) wonderwelders.org – photo Michuzi

Controversial projects
Several large projects championed by the Tanzanian government continue to generate headlines and vociferous argument – both for and against.

The development of Lake Natron Soda Ash Extraction Plant remains dependent upon meeting environmental impact criteria. Although the validity of these crite­ria is doubted by crit­ics, recently released budget estimates of the Ministry of Industry & Trade for 2012/13 reveal that funding has been allocated for chemical, hydrological, ecological and hydrodynamic testing (Alvar Mwakyusa ­Daily News), so expect more on this story soon.

The Serengeti Road saga also continues. At the World Heritage Committee meeting in June 2011 the Tanzanian government confirmed that the 53km stretch of road through the Serengeti National Park would not be paved and would continue to be managed by the Tanzanian National Park Authority (TANAPA). It would be used mainly for tourism and administrative purposes, which should result in a low level of traffic. The Tanzanian government was also said to be seriously considering construction of an alternative road running south of the Serengeti. (Birdlife International, 22 June).

Down in the Selous a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 5 July for the Stiegler’s Gorge Power Project between the Rufiji Basin Development Authority and Odebrecht International. At an anticipated cost of $2 billion, depending on the design chosen, the project is projected to generate a 2100 MW capacity and to provide Dar es Salaam with a stable, long-term water source. The project will be funded through a combination of the Tanzanian Government and Brazilian credit lines. (Daily News Online Edition).

While it is accepted that Tanzania needs a greatly improved electricity network and that the burgeoning metropolis of Dar es Salaam has outgrown its current clean water provision, opponents of the scheme are concerned by the environmental impact of the project, which will see a large area of the most photogenic section of the Selous Game Reserve flooded, the unlikelihood of completing the project to budget and the ongoing cost of maintenance.

Perhaps what all these large-scale projects boil down to when balancing need with impact is trust. Trust in knowledge, trust in capability, trust in capacity and trust in intention. But trust is what seems to be lacking. And now for the uranium processing project in the Selous….

And finally….
On 24 May Apolinari Tairo reported on ETN Tanzania that despite recent predictions that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers may disappear between 2018 and 2020, recent aerial surveys had in fact revealed an increase in snow accumulation on the mountain. Predictably this provoked an online storm, with global warming advocates lining up to shake their keyboards at the nay sayers. Kilimanjaro Area Governor Gama seemed to get it right when he warned that whatever the case with the white and cold stuff, it was still of the utmost importance to check environmental degradation, such as the illegal timber felling and extraction being inflicted on the lower slopes of the mountain.

Anyway, I’ll be balancing on the top of Uhuru come October, so I’ll let you know.

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