Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anti-pastoralist Policies are also Ant-conservation.

Pastoral societies in Tanzanian lived in harmony during pre-colonial era only. Both colonial and post colonial political systems have marginalized pastoralists in the country. Pastoralists have always been wrongly sensed as unproductive (they do not contribute to national economies), unorganized (they always ‘roam around’), and environmentally destructive (they cause overgrazing and desertification). They have been and they are still being treated as enemies of wildlife and nature conservation, despite the fact that they have been inhabited within wildlife ecosystems even before the inversion of wildlife based tourism businesses.

Before colonialism, wildlife was living mutually with pastoralists. Wildlife populations started to be observed to have depleted during 1846 and 1858 (during slave trades) when ivory trade along Tabora root was at the peak. It is from this time when German colonial government introduced wildlife based laws. In 1891 they introduced hunting law, which was followed by comprehensive wildlife regulations that required license to be purchased for hunting, and banned all customary hunting rights and practices such as the use of nets, pits and snares. Within the first decade of colonial rule, wildlife was converted from a locally used and customarily managed component of the natural resource base, to a resource which Europeans largely possessed exclusive legal access to. It must be remembered that indigenous (who were hunters and gatherers) were hunting for subsistence only, thus, they were not responsible for the observed depletion of rhinos (due to rhino horn trade), elephants (due to ivory trade) or any other big game (due to hides trade). In other words, Colonialists who were the main commercial poachers legalized their crimes at the expense of honest and frank indigenous, mostly pastoral societies.

The indigenous hunting rights were completely curtailed when colonial government introduced wildlife protected areas (PAs). By 1913 there were already several game reserves in the county where residents could live in but they had no legal access to wildlife there in. Lives of pastoralists became terrible when national park regulations were introduced in 1950’s. For example, Serengeti National Park was gazetted in 1959 in an arrangement that resulted into the eviction of resident Maasai pastoralists from that ecosystem. A new National Parks Ordinance which extinguished all customary land rights of communities living in national parks was passed that year, meaning that local people (who were mostly pastoralists) were henceforth not allowed to live in these areas.

After independence, colonialists maintained their power over wildlife conservation in the country indirectly but strongly. Western conservationists anticipating tragedy for the country’s wildlife under Tanzania’s (and Africa entirely) rule developed strategies in the changed political environment of the post-colonial era. They mobilized foreign resources to support wildlife conservation in Africa. This effort was led by a suite of relatively new organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). These organizations plus several newly formed ones (Africare, Farm Africa ….) are the main forerunners of conservation in the country to date. The organizations in collaboration with the government and few elites in the country are perpetuating the same colonial initiatives (especially ant-pastoralist policies) in the new arm of neo-colonialism through aids, grants and loans.

Ant-pastoralists policies have been maintained throughout wildlife conservation mechanisms in the country. Even the recent neo-colonial idea of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) projects appears to intend to make no reconciliation and comradeship with pastoralists. Eviction of pastoralist has been done and is still being done all around wildlife protected areas. Tarangire National Park, for example, was created out of Tarangire Game Reserve in 1970, which extinguished it from use for dry season grazing by local pastoralists. It is now the dry season grazing ecosystem by elephants. Eviction of pastoralists when establishing and managing wildlife protected areas in Tanzania is now viewed as a culture and the only tool for conservation. Last year the same Maasai who were evicted from Serengeti ecosystem were removed from Loliondo and told to go back home. (Should they go back to Serengeti? What will happen?) This was for the purpose of allowing multibillion foreign Arabs investments in wildlife in Loliondo. In Serengeti wildlife species like endangered black rhinos, lions and wild dogs have never breathed in harmony since the eviction of pastoralists in that ecosystem.

In March 2006, the Government of Tanzania issued an eviction order to the pastoralists from the Ihefu area in the Usangu wetlands in Mbeya. This was followed by full-scale military operation in the area including regular police, anti poaching units and game wardens who evicted hundreds of pastoralists with over 300 000 cattle (according to some literature). The livestock keepers were forced to leave their homes and were not provided with any relocation area. Many researchers, journalists, evictees and activists have said and written a lot about this but the government has never reconciled. It is indicated in some literature that in total the livestock owners who were forcefully evicted from their own homes had to pay Tshs. 14 450 000, and about 1 500 cattle were impounded while some readings indicate that one of the families was forced to pay up to 29m Tshs. Pastoralists were blamed for causing the scandalous 2006 power shortage in Tanzania, through livestock grazing in the catchment area of Mtera dam, while the water shortage is probably to a larger degree caused by rice cultivation upstream of the dam. Moreover power shortages in the coutry are still there even after long history of ant-pastoralists policies, even four years after they were removed from Ihefu. Power shortage and food insecurity in country is there even during heavy rains.

The eviction of people from West Kilimanjaro in 2006, in the same name of conservation of environment and natural rivers had the similar history as Loliondo. Majority of residents of West Kilimanjaro were pastoralists evicted from Enduimet game reserve in Arusha, where by its benefits are only known and felt by foreign investors and top politicians and very few elites. Unfortunately, after removal of pastoralists, some rivers have dried up due to activities of foreign and some African large scale farmers in areas like Olmorog, Lelamwa, Engare – Nairobi and Kamwanga, (according to some journalists reports). The biodiversity of the area has lost due to large scale monoculture practices. This proves that pastoralists were conserving that environment better than farmers, the government and those who call themselves conservationists.

The foul policies and practices against pastoralists in Tanzania are not exhaustive. There has been eviction of pastoralists from fertile lands of Lorkisalie in Monduli, Naberera in Simanjiro, Basotu in Arusha (where Barbaigs were evicted to allow large farms of wheat by Canadians) and some parts of Kiteto, all under the same language of conservation and large scale farming projects by few rich Tanzanians, and neo-colonialists. Most of the projects like that of Monduli failed at very beginning but after massive destructions of environment and biodiversity, and killing of several native species by chemicals.

The claim that pastoralists cause environmental destructions has no any practical meaning. The history of wildlife conservation in most wildlife Protected Area in Tanzania started from pastoralists. Most famous National Parks like Serengeti, Tarangire, Arusha, Mkomazi and Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which is one of the most illustrious World Heritage Site and tourism destination were gazetted after eviction of pastoralists in those ecosystems. This is also true even in Tsavo, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Masai National Parks in Kenya. More interesting is that some areas that were seen impossible for conservation are now viable for direct wildlife base investments and businesses, after pastoralists have settled there for some years. A good example is Loliondo, were Maasai settled after being evicted from Serengeti. It is therefore evident that pastoralists were/are conserving better than politicians, rich investors and neo-colonialists and that ant-pastoralists policies is a colonial and political war against conservation.

The conservation initiatives under ant-pastoralists since colonial era have brought no edible fruits, neither to wildlife populations nor to majority Tanzanians. It has been for the benefits of neo-colonialists and few elites in the country only. The ‘Republics of Wildlife’ (several mult-hectors of National Parks and Game Reserves) gazetted under ant-pastoralists policies have ended up with huge investments mostly by the neo-colonialists, accompanied by severe problems of decrease in populations of wildlife. Most important high value species like black rhino have depleted completely in some national parks like Tarangire, and very few have remained in Serengeti and Ngorongoro. This has happened despite the use of highly expensive modern ant-poaching techniques. Some black rhino species were sent to South Africa for more intensive conservation but at vast expenses and very uncertain outcomes. Even where eviction has been for the purpose of environmental conservation and agriculture, little or nothing viable has been observed. It has been all about environmental pollution and loss of biodiversity, while setting the country’s food security dependent on foreigners like Japanese farmers.

Ant-pastoralists policies as a tool for wildlife conservation appear to be nonsensical and too mechanical. They are all about conflicts, poaching and poverty. They are for development of colonialists while weakening Africans’ livelihood. They are expensive with little or no significance benefits to majority. The question is why should we spend a lot of money to conduct ant-poaching, and transport black rhinos to South Africa while we could incur no cost if we conserve and benefit with the pastoralists or local communities?

The government should stop the ant-pastoralists policies in order to create harmony and peace in natural resources conservation. It should define and set aside conducive area for pastoralists just as it has done for wildlife. It should not marginalize anybody in the name of wildlife conservation. Instead, we should all benefit from it accordingly. There should be a mechanism to educate pastoralists to practice good livestock keeping techniques like sedentarization. This can be even the basis for implementing the recent livestock Identification, Registration and Traceability and Grazing Land and Animal Feed Resources bills of 2010. A century of marginalization of pastoralists in conservation has led us in wars and loss of wildlife populations and some species have gone to extinction. Unless we reconcile and create harmony with pastoralist, wildlife conservation will never be free from conflicts. Changes should also start from here.

By Aklei Albert.

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