Sunday, 14 April 2013

The “Other” Part of Ngorongoro District – A Few Reports that I got from Ngorongoro Conservation Area

I cut this out from an un-published blog post that was becoming too long and too old since I had problems making busy people check if I had understood their information correctly and since there were too many worrying developments in Loliondo that have since grown into a full declaration of war from the government (I’ve written about it here and here). I’ll shortly also post the information I had got about Thomson Safaris and about the “corridor”/OBC.

Hunger in NCA and a parliamentary committee recommends that Oldoinyo Lengai also be placed under the NCAA. Plus an almost unreported attack on Kakesio by a WMA “investor” from neighbouring district.

This blog is about Loliondo and I do need to study Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) more closely, but I’d like to share some worrying information that has reached me thanks to Solomon ole Yiapa, Kinama Marite and other people from the area.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The last months (or years really) have seen a food crisis in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and I’ve got the information from Kinama Marite that the death rate that for the past 36 years has been around 3 children a month has increased to 12 to 15, and 17 to 20 during the dry season from July to November, and this is due to malnutrition. Livestock numbers have not recovered from the serious drought in 2009, there have been more droughts and the situation is worsened by forbidden access to key grazing areas and areas suitable for avoiding disease in this much vaunted multiple land use area to where the Maasai were moved from the Serengeti in 1959 and where their interests were supposed to take precedence.

Grazing in the northern highland forest is strictly prohibited by NCAA and more areas are reportedly being grabbed, like for hotel construction in Esirwa by Zara Tours and there’s encroachment into Kakesio by Mwiba Holdings, investor at Makao WMA in Meatu District.

Though the most direct cause of hunger protested by people in NCA is that when there is rain and people in other places plant their gardens this is not happening in NCA as cultivation, including for subsistence is banned since an earlier ban was re-imposed in 2009 under pressure from UNESCO, IUCN and others. So people are dying of hunger in an area with – reported – tourism revenue of US$ 50 million in the latest fiscal year from gate fees alone.

The people, through their registered villages, have no control over their land since everything is under the rule of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). In November 2012 the reports grew louder that food aid was needed and Ngorongoro councillors tried talking to the Arusha Regional Commissioner who denied that there was a food crisis. The Pastoral Council – a local body supposed to represent the interests of people in NCA – receives a tiny fraction of the gate fees and paid in August for 3,600 tons of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve that the government failed to timely distribute. Recent drought has crashed livestock prices and rocketed the price of maize. One bag of maize now costs Tshs 90,000 that nearly 80% of people can’t afford. Young people are moving to town to look for paid work, usually as watchmen, to rescue their families, but the pay is very low and can’t satisfy their needs. Once they move to town the families are often left without anyone to take care of livestock. It’s widely believed that the aim of the NCA policies of draconian restrictions on human activities and social services is to let nature take its course forcing people to move out of the area.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment witnessed the food crisis on their tour of the northern zone in November and the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism visited the area and declared that the government was very willing to send food aid – if an official letter was sent by the NCAA, but the District Commissioner and NCAA refused to send such a letter. On 21st December some pastoralist NGOs issued a press release about the food crisis and then the DC released an official report saying that emergency relief indeed was needed. Later, in January the Standing Committee dismissed the report as not showing the seriousness of the problem. 
The government has distributed over 500 tonnes of maize while NCAA has distributed 300 tonnes that reportedly was not in the best condition for human consumption. Oxfam have donated 300 bags of fortified flour. This is not a solution for people that do not want to be fed like sick calves. And yes, the minister showed up again without saying anything of substance, according to my sources.

It’s currently rainy season and people in NCA have milk and wild roots and vegetables, but nobody knows what will happen after this season.

Since January several people have been arrested in NCA for planting potatoes.

Here’s a video about the protest against the food crisis.

After having visited NCA, where they could observe the food crisis, the Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment publicly recommended that Oldoinyo Lengai, an active volcano and the sacred mountain of the Maasai, in the village of Engaresero should also be placed under the NCAA. There are some members of the committee that seem to show some concern for suffering people, but the outcome of much of what they have a look at is bizarre in a frightening way. This idea has been proposed at least twice before and for obvious reasons it has been strongly rejected by people living in Engaresero. “Investors” have shown interest in the area, but the reasons expressed by the committee is that Oldoinyo Lengai needs a protected status. Some years ago even the president spoke out about having the mountain and the adjacent Lake Natron, the only important nesting site in East Africa for lesser flamingos, placed under NCAA. The main threat against Lake Natron is the Government’s own plans for a soda ash plant.

In 2011 Engaresero received the same kind of letter as received and protested by Ololosokwan, - a letter demanding that they should hand in the village land certificate. I do need to know more about Engaresero.

By chance I got information from Solomon ole Yaipa from Kakesio that on 2nd December 2012 in the far south of Ngorongoro District, in Olengopuken near Ngairish in Kakesio ward of Ngorongoro Conservation Area bordering Meatu District in Simiyu Region (that’s been cut off from Shinyanga Region) 18 Maasai bomas were burnt by a company called Mwiba Holdings. At the moment no people where living there but they would have returned on 27th December when they usually move their livestock to the area. The company was arguing that the area was theirs – Mwiba is the investor at Makao WMA in Meatu - but maps show that the border to Makao village is 14 kilometres away and old beacons have also recently been found by warriors. The burning of bomas was reported to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) and after weeks of inaction a technical committee that would meet with Mwiba in Makao was set up.

I wonder how many similar incidents go unreported. The only chance for anything like this to be known is that some educated person from the area isn’t too comfortable and busy to move on in life to voice out.

Solomon reported that on 15th January Mwiba did eventually agree that the area was not theirs and promised to compensate for the destruction that they had caused. The affected people are still waiting for this compensation, and there have been reports about Mwiba harassing herders from Kakesio. Local people have reported that Mwiba are expanding their area toward NCA and are involved in illegal road construction across grazing areas to take their clients to enjoy the Lake Eyasi basin. Mwiba have destroyed beacons that were erected in 1992 to mark the border between the two districts and have created their own border by painting trees, and clearing the bush. There’s a border conflict between Makao and Kakesio villages and this is what Mwiba are basing their claim on. There is also evidence that Mwiba and associates are hunting inside NCA and very much with knowledge by some NCAA officers.

Mwiba have got involved with leaders in the new Simiyu Region to continue encroaching into Kakesio. On 12th April NCAA representatives held a meeting with the community and promised to find a solution.

I have later got conflicting reports about the number of bomas that were burnt, if some of them were Barbaig, and it seems like a large number of Barbaig bomas could also have been burnt inside Makao WMA.

I do need more details about this conflict.

Mwiba Holdings (part of the Tanzanian Mawalla Group) is the investor at Makao Wildlife Management Area where Mwiba Wildlife Reserve and tented camp are managed by Ker & Downey Tanzania (“non-consumptive” tourism, re-named Legendary Adventures) that’s in the same group of companies as Tanzania Game Trackers Safaris (hunting) and Friedkin Conservation Fund (“philanthropy”) – all owned by American billionaire Thomas H. Friedkin. A WMA is supposed to be a manner of making “communities” benefit from wildlife, but in reality it’s a recipe for advancing the position of investors and central government. Mwiba were in November 2011 involved in brutal evictions from Makao WMA under the orders of the Regional Commissioner of Shinyanga. The letter from the Meatu District Executive Officer’s office detailing the assistance needed was sent to Friedkin Conservation Trust/TGTS. Here’s the evictions report. Mwiba are unsurprisingly also very involved in “community empowerment” – just like other criminals like Thomson Safaris and OBC - and the WMA is being facilitated by Frankfurt Zoological Society that in 2010 recruited Thomson’s former “Enashiva” manager Daniel Yamat.

Susanna Nordlund

No comments: