There are signs of positive local wildlife conservation efforts to protect the natural resources in Tanzania through community involvement, mostly in wildlife protection.
Wildlife is the leading source of tourism and the biggest attraction, pulling about one million tourists as the past year numbers show. Wildlife populations have suffered in recent decades from poaching and clashes with people
involved in other economic activities, such as farming and mining.
A new study had found that community-based wildlife conservation can quickly result in clear ecological success, with the largest and smallest species being among the winners.
A paper published recently by the scientists from the Wild Nature Institute, documented significantly higher densities of giraffes and dik-diks, and lower densities of cattle in a community Wildlife Management Area (WMA) relative to an unprotected control site in Tanzania.
The positive ecological effects were clearly the result of the WMA, because the study found similar wildlife and livestock densities in the WMA and control sites before WMA establishment, when both were managed by the same authority.
Dr. Derek Lee, lead author of the study and Principal Scientist at Wild Nature Institute said: “There have been social and economic critiques of WMAs, but the ecological value or success of WMAs for wildlife conservation had never been quantified.
“Our data demonstrated that WMA establishment and management had positive ecological outcomes in the form of higher wildlife densities and lower livestock densities. This met our definition of ecological success, and hopefully these results will encourage more community-based conservation efforts.”
Community-based natural resource management, established on the transference of resource management and user rights from central government agencies to local communities, is promoted as a conservation tool and has become the dominant paradigm of natural resource conservation worldwide.
Unfortunately, the ecological success or failure of these projects is rarely rigorously assessed.
In Tanzania, efforts to decentralize wildlife management to local communities occur through the creation of WMAs, whereby several villages set aside land for wildlife conservation in return for the majority of tourism revenues from these areas.
Nineteen WMAs are currently operating, encompassing 6.2 million hectares of Tanzania’s land area, with 19 more WMAs planned.
The Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has been supporting community projects for villages neighboring the national parks and the public at large through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program known in Tanzania’s lingua franca Kiswahili as “Ujirani Mwema” or “Good Neighborliness.”
The “Ujirani Mwema” initiative had shown a positive trend, bringing reconciliation between the humans and their natural enemies – the wild animals. Now, people in villages realize the importance of wildlife and tourism to their lives, keeping away the old notion that wild creatures had no value to humans.
Under this program, the National Parks management release a big amount of funds accrued from tourism for community projects, mostly schools, health facilities, clean water supply and support to poor children in designated areas.
At the national level, the national parks have successfully maintained a competitive advantage over other tourist destinations. They stand as the leading tourist attractions, while adding a value to other attractive sites outside the parks including the Indian Ocean beaches, historical sites, cultural tourist sites and other such tourist attractive places.
As a result, the parks have become tourist selling points for Tanzania. The National Parks had raised tourism to an important sector of the economy for Tanzania’s development.