TANZANIA (eTN) – Through tourism, Tanzania National Parks supports community projects in villages neighboring the parks through its Social Community Responsibility (SCR) program known as Good Neighborliness, an initiative that has shown a positive trend, bringing reconciliation between people and wild animals. People in villages appreciate the importance of wildlife and tourism in their lives.
This is why it is vitally important for Tanzania’s government to take new strategies to resolve escalating conflicts between local communities and wildlife conservation authorities. The Tanzania government is now planning to demarcate anew the wildlife parks borders. The move to demarcate borders between wildlife parks and local communities had come into government plans as the only option to solve conflicts between locals and wildlife conservationists.
Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Mr. Lazaro Nyalandu was quoted as saying that his ministry which is responsible to oversee wildlife protection and conservation, is working out a modality to re-demarcate the borders between wildlife parks and human settlements.
He said the aim to carry such an exercise was a quick solution to frequent conflicts between communities living near reserved areas, the parks’ managements, and related wildlife managers.
There has been frequent conflicts and skirmishes reported to erupt between local communities and wildlife conservation managers. Most of reported conflicts were based on the fight for pastures and farming lands.
Wildlife and human conflicts are currently a big debate in Tanzania and which had attracted local and international conservationists to intervene. Northern Tanzania’s premier tourist pulling parks of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Arusha and the Serengeti have reported conflicts between humans and wild animals.
Tanzania National Parks, the trustee and leading wildlife conservation and protection institution, has been affected by some reported human and wildlife conflicts in three of its leading parks of Ruaha, Tarangire and Serengeti.
But, through tourist benefit-sharing initiatives designed and monitored by Tanzanian National Parks, the trustees and the parks management are looking at social benefits to the local communities neighboring nature-protected areas through tourist income-sharing initiatives.
For the past 25 years, proponents of conservation in Tanzania have pointed to the importance of conservation of wildlife outside national park boundaries and within human-inhabited landscapes as critical to maintaining healthy migratory wildlife populations.
Just outside the national parks in Tanzania, there are over 100 villages, of which 42 share a border with the parks. Many of these villages were integrated into the Tanzanian national parks.
The community conservation program, Good Neighborliness, has been established with a purpose of educating local communities on the importance of wildlife conservation and tourism, while sharing incomes generated from tourist business conducted inside and outside the parks.
The Community Conservation Service (CCS) is an Outreach Program of Tanzania National Parks that is extended to surrounding communities with a focus on local people and governments up to the district level.
Benefits obtained through Tanzania national parks’ Support for Community Initiated Projects (SCIP) fund are recognized as wildlife-related benefits in receiving villages and have made a significant contribution to changing the “park-people” relationship, and this has reduced conflicts between wildlife conservationists and the local communities neighboring the parks.
The SCIP fund was established as part of the strategic planning process. The fund program works with communities bordering or close to national parks and stresses support for community-initiated projects.
Funds, currently amounting to 7.5 percent of each park’s operations, get allocated to the local communities. Generally the park contributes up to 70 percent of the local community project cost, and the community contributes the remaining 30 percent.
Sustainable tourism has been one of the strategies being given special emphasis by the government of Tanzania as a means towards poverty alleviation, with the understanding that sustainable tourism development addresses needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs.
As part of the strategy, tourism sector policies emphasize active community involvement in sustainable utilization of natural and cultural resources.
Conservation education programs have been designed to organize park visits for local communities, training for communities on project management and accounting, and the use of appropriate technology. Nature conservation clubs are established in schools, teachers are trained, and conservation films are shown in the communities.
From a single national park in 1961 when Tanzania became independent from Britain, today there are 15 national parks, rich with wildlife and a wide diversity of plants. A new park is planned inside Lake Victoria to protect rescued and endangered species.
Standing as tourist magnets, wildlife parks are the leading sources of Tanzania’s foreign currency accrued from photographic tourism, hotel concession fees, and other levies from safari companies operating in these protected areas.
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, founder of the Tanzanian nation, deliberately advocated for the need to establish wildlife parks and develop a national tourist base, taking into account that tourism under British colonial powers basically covered amateur hunting. Wildlife conservation for sustainable tourism development was not a priority for the colonial administrators during those past days.
National parks have successfully maintained a competitive advantage over other tourist sites adding value to tourist sites outside the parks. The parks have become the leading tourist selling point for Tanzania, and this has made tourism an important sector of the economy for Tanzania’s development.
In recent years, tourism has contributed towards 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 25 percent of export earnings in foreign exchange, said Allan Kijazi, the Director General of Tanzania National Parks.
Tanzania National Parks, which manages 16 premier tourist attractive wildlife sanctuaries, stands as the leading magnet which pulls foreign tourists to Tanzania and the cornerstone of Tanzania’s tourism development which is wildlife based. Tanzania National Parks occupies coverage of 57,024 square kilometers of the Tanzanian land.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Ruaha national parks are the thrilling, most attractive wildlife parks under the trusteeship of the Tanzania National Parks and which pulls big crowds of tourists to Tanzania.
Tanzania’s wildlife conservation has set a solid foundation for re-thinking and repositioning the national parks management and trustees on a global roadmap of conservation. This repositioning aims at addressing a number of challenges, which include poaching, disappearance of wildlife corridors, climate change, technological advances, and understanding of the ecology of the parks systems.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projections, Africa will witness the tourist sector grow four-fold by 2020. With the diversity of tourism products in the African region, proper planning, and political will, this continent stands to benefit greatly from tourism.
African countries have made tourism a priority and committed resources to create a conducive environment for its growth.