Land rights in Tanzania’s premier tourist parks
Filled with a ray of hope, Maasai pastoralists, neighbors to the Serengeti National Park and Loliondo Game Controlled Area in northern Tanzania, are fighting back over their rights on wildlife rich pa
Filled with a ray of hope, Maasai pastoralists, neighbors to the Serengeti National Park and Loliondo Game Controlled Area in northern Tanzania, are fighting back over their rights on wildlife rich pasturelands.
Clad in their traditional attire, the Maasai pastoralists are pressing the Tanzanian government to give them rights on ownership of the rich pastureland, part of it occupied by Africa’s famous Serengeti National Park and Loliondo Game Controlled area, all famous premier tourist attractions with a sizeable number of tourist investments.
Loliondo Game Controlled area, which is located in the corner of the eastern side of Serengeti National Park, and wildlife rich Ngorongoro Conservation Area, has been an epicenter of conflicts between the Maasai and the government of Tanzania for over 20 years and which the government had failed to resolve through amicable diplomacy.
Last month, the Maasai leaders claimed to have seen a ray of hope after securing the official contract which was signed between British government and 12 Maasai leaders over their occupancy rights in the wildlife rich pasturelands of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Loliondo.
Signed in 1958, the agreement that was signed and sent to London, contains legal rights on land ownership between the Maasai and the government of Tanzania in respect to wildlife conservation and pastures for the Maasai communities.
The government of Tanzania owns and manages three tourist wildlife parks which are the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Loliondo, while the Maasai communities share livestock pastures with wild animals in Ngorongoro and partly in Loliondo, but not allowed to graze their cattle inside the Serengeti National Park.
Former Chairman of the Maasai community, Mr. Yohanne Ole Saini, said for many years the pastoralists have been searching for the agreement signed between their 12 former elders and the British government in 1958 regarding the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Loliondo wildlife parks.
“Maasai are patient people; we have educated our children to highest [the] levels and now through them, the people of Loliondo have managed to find the contract in the United Kingdom, and it has just been brought back into the country,” the Maasai headman was quoted as saying.
The Serengeti, famous for its annual wildebeest migrations, was the home of the Maasai pastoralists and who were relocated to Loliondo and Ngorongoro to pave the way for the formation of Tanzania’s biggest tourist park, the Serengeti National Park.
Since 1992, a series of conflicts had ensued between the Maasai and the government of Tanzania, prompting them to send a young Maasai lawyer to London and who succeeded to secure the original document which sealed a contract between them and the then Britain over the agreed land-use plans for both Serengeti and Loliondo and the rights that the cattle-keeping communities are entitled to.
The British and Maasai agreement is currently kept safe in some unknown place in the northern tourist city of Arusha awaiting the final discussions to decide the fate of this famous tribe in East Africa over their grazing land.
The Serengeti National Park covers some 14,800 square kilometers, and it attract 350,000 tourists per year and is counted a leading tourist hotspot in East Africa. Ngorongoro Crater which attract 600,000 tourists per year, is Tanzania’s second most popular tourist destination.
The Serengeti National Park is famous for its annual migration of nearly 2.5 million white brindled wildebeest and Zebras as well as ferocious Nile crocodiles inhabiting the River Mara which cuts across the reserve.
It is not clearly known if the aftermath of this standoff will affect the Serengeti once the 1958 Serengeti Charter reveals new developments for the benefit of the Maasai in Loliondo, but wildlife conservationists fear to see this park lose its global glory.
A section of conservationists expressed their fear of seeing the Maasai outsmarting the government of Tanzania over land ownership in wildlife protected areas, a situation which could greatly affect tourism development in this country.