Mikumi National Park Ecologist Samweli Mgohachi told a sensitization seminar conducted recently for villagers from six villages in Morogoro region.
Mgohachi said the community had an important role to play in ensuring protection and management of African elephants was successful.
“This initiative of raising awareness to villagers opens a new chapter in park-community shared objective of conserving Mikumi National Park,” he said.
Organised by Conservation of Nature for Survival (CONASU) with support from the London-based The Rufford Foundation, the meeting gathered villagers from Kihondo, Maharaka, Doma and Mkata villages from Mvomero district, and Parakuyo and Kilangalai villages from Kilosa district.
Some villagers admitted that it was possible to end destructive practices which were being carried out in the park.
CONASU Executive Director Angelus Runji said the sensitization meeting was one of the activities in the project to enhance the community’s protection and management of African elephant habitat, which was underway in Mikumi National Park.
“We are also encouraging the community to involve themselves with some activities like beekeeping to raise their income at the same time protecting our animals,” he said.
He said there was a need to have an ecological balance.
“That is why we have taught villagers to stop fire burning and charcoal making in forests in order to make beekeeping project possible,” he said.
Already the organization has supplied 30 beehives worth Sh3.5million to six villages with a condition that the projects must be supervised by village authorities.
“We are sure that through enhancing community capacity, elephant habitat will be safe and secure and it will end poaching to the great extent.
Mkata village chairperson Catherine Sebastian and Secretary for Kidoma Community Conservation of Environment and Wildlife Daniel Gasper said they were facing various challenges in conserving the national park.
They alleged that they were being let down by the Tanzania National Parks for not paying them anything despite the hardships they faced in dealing with poachers and pastoralists who entered the park for grazing their cattle.