The Tanzania Authorised Association Consortium (AAC) has raised concern regarding the need for policy reform in order to ensure more tangible benefits to Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) from hunting and photography tourism revenue.
AAC is an umbrella organisation for Authorised Associations (AAs) that manage Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), a civil society organization intended to provide a platform to AAs to articulate their views and concerns with different stakeholders.
The current benefit sharing mechanism is viewed as inadequate for AAs to properly manage and conserve their WMA natural resources.
On February 5, journalists visited Burunge WMA under the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to see and hear how Wildlife Management Areas operate, and their supporting institution tasked with managing critical wildlife habitats.
While in Babati, The Guardian on Sunday met AA’s leadership at the Manyara Ranch Office who noted that WMA are currently receiving only 50 percent of revenue from tourism in their WMAs.
George Wambura, the AA Executive Secretary observed that the process needs greater transparency and funds need to be disbursed in a timely manner back to communities.
He noted challenges in disbursement of funds from the government, often taking up to a year before being received by the participating communities. This poses a challenge to proper planning and management of the WMAs, he stated.
Revenue collection and distribution by districts and the central government undermines the central concept of WMAs as being a community led process.
The AA Consortium insisted on the need for communities themselves to make decisions over revenue management.
The AA was registered in 2010, with an established secretariat handling issued from member associations with national organs and international consultative forums.
Ramadhani Ismail, the chairman of the Burunge WMA said the existence of WMA has supported the villagers in various development projects and in donations like school contributions, the Uhuru Torch and health centre that previously caused some villagers to flee their homes after failing to pay the small amounts of cash needed.
Annual collections have increased from Sh.37 million in 2006/07 to Sh. 435 million in 2011/1, he said, noting that since WMA came up villager authorities have been paid various contributions from profit of WMA projects.
David Mansoni, a WMA beneficiary, says before the WMA hunters would invade and leave the bush at will. Now, visitors pay $25 per person nightly, and villagers realize the benefits of money generated from Burunge WMA.
Mansoni said transparency is the biggest benefit of WMA as villagers are informed on how much money the WMA had received and how much they should expect.
Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are community owned and managed conservation areas in which communities are given user rights, to benefit from their wildlife resources.