Natural Resources and Tourism minister Khamis Kagasheki at the weekend made cautious remarks on the conflicting parties in Loliondo, Ngorongoro District, also warning that if things won’t go well he might be compelled to ban all human activities in the area.
The minister, who was speaking on the tug of war that has persisted for decades between the resident Maasai tribespeople and investors, said he would change the land’s current activities so as to ensure the area remained peaceful.
“If it happens that the land dispute persists and therefore pose a threat to the prevailing harmony in the land, then I will be compelled to disallow any activity to take place in the area… I am for peace and peace must prevail,” he was quoted as saying.
But what exactly is happening in the area? Without dwelling much on the kernel of the conflict, residents in the area claim that one hunting firm alongside another company have been unfairly denying them the right to use the land – and this with virtual impunity. Further, the Maasai argue that their houses are often torched, water sources are destroyed and livestock denied pastureland.
For their part, the two hunting firms claim that the government has given them the right they are enjoying to conduct photographic and tourism hunting in an area they say is now legally in their possession.
Now, despite minister Kagasheki’s pronouncements, is it really feasible for the activities conducted by these firms or any others to be banned? Assuming that is possible, what would be the consequences of the ban to the national economy? And is there no better way of addressing this problem, which has persisted in the area for long years?
It is well known that the main activities taking place in the area – photographic and hunting tourism as well as livestock keeping – bring a wide array of social and economic benefits not only to the area but also to the nation generally.
Now, given that the area borders the world-famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which constitute part of the backbone of Tanzania’s tourism, it is difficult to estimate the consequences of imposing any such ban.
In that the very nature of the activities undertaken makes this particular area one of the most highly coveted lands in the country, rushing into banning them might boomerang.
As the minister himself admits, the economic activities undertaken by the Maasai make these people the best conservators around there.
This means that banning the Maasai’s activities would also mean cutting off their contribution to the country’s social, cultural and economic development.
One is tempted to wonder why is it that the undertaking of human activities in the area have fallen short of arresting poaching – and there is no let-up in the prevalence of crime in our wildlife sanctuaries!
Our humble advice to the government is that principle number one for any investors is for them to be, much like the Maasai, leading conservators of the wildlife surrounding them. But to what extent is this true?