Environment conservation must enable communities to raise the quality of their lives and help them attain sustainable development, a World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature official has said.
“In the fifty years of cooperation between WWF and various sectors of the Tanzanian society our focus has been on empowering communities to protect, manage and use natural resources rationally for their well-being while considering that of future generations,” explained Jim Leape, WWF Internation director general when answering questions from journalists at a press conference held in Dar es Salaam over the weekend.
Responding to a request to highlight the achievements made by the organization since it started its activities in Tanzania in 1961, Leape said that for quite some time, conservation was taken as an end in itself, with communities being prohibited to use natural resources around them which they had devoted a lot of their knowledge to protect.
He added that this notion defeated the very purpose of conservation, which is to raise the quality of life by using such resources sustainably.
“Our organization has always focused on making communities benefit more from available natural resources through conservation than indiscriminate harvesting of the same. This has been the case for resources like fresh water, forests, agricultural land and marine and coastal resources. We have worked with communities, the central government, district countries and CSOs to empower communities with knowledge, understanding and ownership of these resources so that they take full responsibility of protection management and planning for their use,” he said.
“Now if the communities we have worked with, and these are in every corner of Tanzania, destroy forests or engage in dynamite fishing or even destroy water sources, they will be destroying their livelihoods and condemning their future generations to abject poverty,” he added.
Leape cited examples of communities in Rufiji, Kilwa and Mafia who are managing fisheries, mangrove forests and other coastal and marine resources to the extent of attaining international recognition.
“These communities have shown exemplary effort in conservation through their own leadership. But, more importantly, they have shown outstanding contribution in improving and safeguarding livelihood opportunities for their communities.
"This has shown how rights-based approaches to natural resources can be an answer to both conservation and livelihood challenges,” he noted.
WWF has worked with communities in various parts of the country to implement projects in forest conservation, irrigation management and water conservation, marine and coastal resources conservation as well as wildlife conservation.
"The success of these projects is a true testament to the great work WWF is doing with communities in Tanzania,” the director general said.
Asked to comment on a recent crisis in which international auditors revealed a huge loss of about USD 400,000 at the WWF Tanzania country office, Leape said the organization had already taken measures to ensure that the crisis does not interfere with implementation of current projects.
"The auditors have done their work and we at the head office have already taken measures, including restructuring the office administration. Other measures will be taken in due course, but let me assure you and our partners, communities, CSOs, councils and others, that implementation of all the projects is on course and will not be interfere with by this crisis,” he said.