Manyara Ranch – Tanzania (African Wildlife Foundation), Part II: Nine villages, one success story

May 4, 2008

buf_crpd1.jpgAfrican Wildlife Foundation (AWF) was able to make a sweeping gain for migrating wildlife and local Maasai pastoralists with the establishment of the Tanzanian Land Conservation Trust at the 44,000 acre Manyara Ranch.

The region of Burunge lies just south of Manyara Ranch – another region AWF identified as critical to wildlife migrating between Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park as well as the region’s overall ecosystem. However, unlike the large, singularly held property at Manyara Ranch, Burunge consists of 9 villages representing about 30,000 residents. AWF faced a new set of challenges getting 9 separate villages to align on conservation-focused management for 60,000 acres of community lands.

Their efforts began with education, engaging key members of the 9 villages and conducting village level seminars regarding the benefits to protecting and promoting their wildlife-rich region as a tourism destination.

AWF worked side by side with the villagers, talking through issues ranging from conservation policies and the benefits of community-based natural resource management to the land-use planning and ultimately the demarcation of designated land for what would become the Burunge Wildlife Management Area (Wildlife Management Area).

The people of the Burunge WMA came out on the side of conservation, moving people and buildings away from key migration areas to minimize human-wildlife conflict, encouraging and protecting the ready flow of animals through their region. Two short years later, the Burunge WMA now benefits from more than 50% of the income generated from operations of two new safari lodges, the Maramboi Tented Lodge and Lake Burunge Tented Lodge, monies that are distributed to the 9 WMA member villages, supporting numerous community development projects including health services and the construction of 3 schools.

The region now has more than 40 village game scouts who’ve received formal vocational training. Game scouts coordinate anti-poaching and wildlife monitoring patrols, promoting conservation outreach among the nine WMA villages with an overall effect of encouraging positive attitudes toward wildlife conservation amongst local residents and reducing poaching.

In a tidy room on the roadside in Mwada, the speaker and representatives of the nine member villages in the Burunge WMA educated us on their organization’s history and programs, after which they inquired earnestly as to what we in the United States have done to achieve our successes in conservation. Well, we’ve set aside lands for parks. That’s good, right?

elef_crpd1.jpgAnd then I considered the myriad species and habitats we have sent to the brink or straight into extinction in our brief 200+ years as a country and the irony of our giving conservation advice to people who have lived in this region for thousands of years without a parking lot, shopping mall or subdivision gracing their landscape. Their lack of our western concept of “progress” has kept their skies filled with birds, elephants and buffalo lumbering through their crops – inconvenient neighbors but not subject to annihilation for the affront.

We told them that we were, in fact, here to learn from them – people who haven’t been raised believing they were supposed to blow more than their share of the earth’s finite natural resources. The WMA members had opted in to save and protect their resources before they were too far gone, giving them a more rewarding return on their efforts.

One of countless lessons from Africa: On occasion, progress defies its own definition.

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