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Conservation Area

Mwangunga sends SOS message to frustrated Maasai in Ngorongoro

Adam Ihucha, eTN Staff Writer  Jul 30, 2009

ARUSHA, Tanzania (eTN) - Native Maasai population will not be evicted in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Shamsa Mwangunga has announced, sending a "save our souls" message to an upset community.

However, Mwangunga warned that an imminent major eviction of immigrant population and livestock to relieve the 8,292-sq-km, world-famous Ngorongoro Conservation Area will never spare anybody involved in illegal farming within the protected territory.

“The major eviction of alien’s families and herds of cattle with an eye to relie[ve] the NCA has nothing to do with the native pastoralist Maasai,” she said during her meeting with the formidable Pastoralist Council in Ngorongoro recently.

“Native Maasai are here to stay. The eviction is only targeting immigrant families of nomadic pastoralists and their livestock,” Mwangunga stressed, amicably defusing an upsurge in tension among the Maasai community, following widely-circulated speculations that nearly 60,000 residents will be relocated.

The minister said that way back in 1959, there were 8,000 native pastoralist Maasai within the NCA, but now 50 years down the line, the population has swelled to 64,800 plus, putting the world's eighth wonder crater under pressure.

“NCA has a human population of more than 64,844 people - nearly eight times from the initial 8,000 population when the NCA authority [was] established,” she noted, adding there are also 13,650 herds of cattle and 193,056 goats and sheep.

According to her, the immigrants' families would be settled at the sparsely-populated Oldonyo Sambu area near Loliondo Township, which is the headquarters of the vast Ngorongoro district.

But so far, 538 people have voluntarily shifted to their new village, and plans are underway to relocate the remaining alien population elsewhere, Mwangunga said.

NCAA acting chief conservator, Bernard Murunya, said the ecosystem can only support 25,000 people.

Ngorongoro Pastoralist Council chairman Metui Olle Shaudo implored the government to come up with an alternative way to provide food for native Maasai pastoralists in order to stop subsistence farming.

Of late, the hungry-Maasai people within the NCAA have embarked on cultivation within the area in order to keep their lives going, prompting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to raise a red flag against NCA, threatening to remove it from the list of World Heritage sites over the ecological integrity deterioration, saying an upsurge of human activities are incompatible with conservation interests within the NCA and its legendary crater located in northern Tanzania.

UNESCO had declared the Ngorongoro crater as a Natural World Heritage Site way back in 1979, twenty years after Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was established in 1959, with an eye to protect an area covering 8,300 square kilometers.

According to UNESCO’s latest exclusive report of the reactive monitoring mission seen by this reporter, the popular tourist site in the country seems to have slowly but surely started loosing its old glory.

UNESCO is not happy with the cultivation undertakings within the NCA, traffic congestion into the crater, proposed major hotel constructions on the rim of the crater, and mass tourism policy.

Called the eighth wonder of the world and stretching across some 8,300 sq km, the NCA in northern Tanzania boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people, and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa.

The volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls, and mountain forests are home to an abundance of animals and to the Maasai.

Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world's greatest natural spectacles; its magical setting and abundant wildlife never fail to enthrall visitors. It borders the Serengeti National Park to the north and west.

Mwangunga sends SOS message to frustrated Maasai in Ngorongoro
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