Settlements, livestock increase threatens Ngorongoro’s future

12Mar 2022
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Settlements, livestock increase threatens Ngorongoro’s future

INCREASING human settlements and livestock in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) are among key factors that would make the area to lose its status if nothing will be done to address the situation.

Pastoralists’ houses in NCA.

A survey carried out recently in NCA shows that the number of pastoralists has grown to over 100,000 from 8,000 in 1959, and the number is projected to reach over 140,000 in 2030 if the intervention will not put in place.

Reports have it that the NCA ecosystem was good in previous years when the population was low. There were 8,000 pastoralists in 1959, which had 20 to 30 head of livestock per household, but now the population has grown to 110,000 and harbours 813,000 cattle, goats and sheep.

As of now, settlements, population increase, poaching and the spread of invasive alien plants remained a challenge.

According to observations, in the past settlements were scattered at some places within the area, but in due course the NCA has been flooded with modern houses—houses made of concrete bricks, with a corrugated iron roof though lacking in health and education services, which are the key for pastoral community development.

This is contrary to conservation rules as it blocks the internal movement corridors used by wildlife species.

CAG report on the 2015/16 financial year it also noted that NCA is under pressure from increasing human activities—human settlements, and livestock.

According to the report, threatened by the build-up in settlements and livestock by leaps and bounds since 1959 when the areas was hived out of the Serengeti National Park, with the quality of being among seven travel wonders in Africa.

It said that the area had no permanent house, but now is the case.

“These things are not allowed to be in the area, but now are becoming part of the day…conservation issues are forgotten as it’s supposed to be,” said one of the retired ecologists, Dr Robert Fyumagwa.

He added that the situation poses a serious threat to the area, which brings a lot of money in terms of tourism and conservation.

Dr Fyumagwa said that the ecology of NCA was endanger of being disrupted due to the increase in population which results in greater interaction between humans and wildlife and affects conservation, indigenous life, and tourism promotion.

Lack of criteria to consider in order for a person to be allowed to join the pastoral community living in the area, the expert said, suggesting the need to bring in practical measures to protect the area for the current and future generations.

Dr Fyumagwa cited the effects of the interaction, including the increase in diseases caused by interactions between humans, wildlife, and livestock as well as people being injured and killed by wildlife.

“That’s why the government decided to announce voluntarily relocate residents in the area to a place where all basic services will be provided,” the ecologist said.

He noted that those people who are in the NCA, apart from destroying the environment in different ways, also disturb wildlife habitats.

The government assured residents living in the NCA that the government will supervise all the transfer expenses for those who are willing to move out of the Africa’s seven wonders.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa admitted that the increase of population living in the NCA, environmental degradation, an increase of livestock threatens the sustainability and lives of wildlife in the park, something which calls for measures to address it.

While in Arusha on Thursday, Majaliwa was given a list of 453 people from 86 households in the NCA agreeing to voluntarily relocate to other areas, with others still being registered.

According to him, the government has set aside an area of ​​400,000 square kilometers in Handeni District, Tanga Region where 220,000 square kilometers area is meant for habitation and the rest for grazing. In the area, there are 2,406 surveyed plots of which 2,070 plots have been prepared for housing and each is three acres in size.

In the new area, the government has started with 101 three-bedroom apartments, 336 land plots for primary and secondary schools, clinics and health centers and construction of water systems is in progress.

NCA has 809,440 ha that spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests, from the plains of the Serengeti National Park in the north-west, to the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley.

It’s a multiple land-use area, with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing.

It includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest caldera, and Olduvai Gorge, a 14km long deep ravine. The property has global importance for biodiversity conservation in view of the presence of globally threatened species such as the black Rhino, the density of wildlife inhabiting the Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding areas throughout the year, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, Thompson's and Grant's  gazelles and other ungulates into the northern plains.

The area has been subject to extensive archaeological research for over 80 years and has yielded a long sequence of evidence of human evolution and human-environment dynamics, collectively extending over a span of almost four million years to the early modern era.

This evidence includes fossilized footprints at Laetoli, associated with the development of human bipedalism, a sequence of diverse, evolving hominin species within Olduvai gorge, which range from Australopiths such as Zinjanthropus boisei to the Homo lineage that includes Homo habilis, Homoerectus, and Homo sapiens; an early form of Homo sapiens at Lake Nduta; and in the Ngorongoro crater, remains that document the development of stone technology and the transition to the use of iron.

The overall landscape of the area is seen to have the potential to reveal much more evidence concerning the rise of anatomically modern humans, modern behavior and human ecology.

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