Communities living adjacent to wildlife protected areas of Tanzania have been the victims of crop raiding and destruction, livestock and human killing and habitat destruction by wildlife, since the introduction of wildlife protected areas regulations, during colonial rule, up to date. Under effective collaboration with NGOs, CSOs, and humanitarian organizations their major claim to the State has been compensation for the destructions, especially for the lost crops, livestock or relatives, sons and daughters. The government and its wildlife conservation agencies have been resisting by providing weak and shocking reason that, to give compensation is difficult. For example the government has been holding that, it is difficult to value and compensate for the lost human life! This is never a good reason to come with the slogan of “no compensation”. If we can’t estimate the value of human life, is it reasonable to give it zero value??
After decades of lobbying, and advocating on the need for compensation for losses caused by wildlife, the new Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 has put very little (if any) consideration on the issue. Section 71 of the act explains the need for ‘consolation’ for loss of life, crops, livestock or injury caused by dangerous animals. The law states; “The minister may in public interest, and after consultation with the minister responsible for finance, make regulations, specifying the amount of money to be paid as a consolation, to a person or group of persons, who have suffered loss of life, livestock, crops or injury caused by dangerous animals”. Furthermore, Section 71 (2) limits the amount to be paid in case of crops, to at most “five acres” only. In the political arenas, some politicians have been defrauding communities that they will now be ‘compensated’ for any loss cause by wildlife.
To console is simply to give a moral support during sufferings, or to give relief to someone in afflictions. This is the same as condolence, an expression of sympathy to your friend, neighbor or relative during suffering. It is something difficult to measure or give monetary value just as it is “difficult to measure the value of human life”. This is very contrary to compensation where the exact (or scientifically estimated) value of the loss or injury is paid back to the victim. What is shocking further is that the entire exercise of consolation is left under the jurisdictions of the minister responsible for wildlife, and the law does not make it mandatory for him to do so.
Consolation does not need any legal mechanisms to enforce; it is just culture, norm or way of expressing friendless in a community. It doesn’t need to spend public resources to discuss it in the parliament or any political arena or forum. It only depends on humanity, keenness, and sympathy of someone to the victim. It is this humanity the government has never had before, which the law is now claiming that the minister may nowadays have!!
Almost in all development projects like construction of infrastructure which involve any disturbance on people’s life or properties, compensation is done effectively. There is no good reason as to why the government is hesitating to compensate the losses caused by dangerous wildlife. Even where people are being evicted for the purpose of wildlife conservation compensation is never done, but instead, their properties are being forfeited and rights to own them are being forcefully extinguished. It is from this sector (through wildlife tourism) where the government is getting most of its revenue, for paying and feeding most politicians and other civil servants. This means that the government is surviving at the expense of marginalized communities living adjacent to wildlife protected areas, whose crops, livestock, sons, daughters, parents and relatives are always in danger of being wiped out by dangerous wildlife.
The government should stop humiliate the communities living adjacent to wildlife resources. These communities should not only be compensated for the destruction of their properties by wildlife, but a significant proportion of the revenues from that sector should always remain in their pockets. Legalizing consolation is simply an indicator of lack of sympathy and empathy among politicians. Sympathy and empathy can never be enforced by laws and regulations.