Gathering in Arusha under the auspices of the Livestock Keepers Association (CCWT), and the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Government Organizations Network (PINGOs) Forum as well as representatives from villages surrounding national parks and game reserves, members of the communities insisted that they have always assisted in matters of conservation.
Speaking on behalf of livestock keepers nationwide, William Sikurari said for many years, members of marginalized communities lacked proper leaders to present their side of the story and the recent decision by the Head of State restored their hopes that at least this time the government was thinking about them.
“Our villages are acting as buffer zones, shielding protected areas from invasion by poachers and illegal loggers,” argued the villagers in a joint statement, noting that they were organizing peaceful demonstrations on Saturday, the 19th of January 2019 to express their gratitude to President Magufuli.
PINGOs Forum director Edward Porokwa said that pastoralists, livestock keepers, hunters and gatherers as well as other members of communities whose villages are located close to national parks and game reserves have been living in fear, trepidation and uncertainty as threats of possible eviction kept them awake for years.
“In the past, we have heard cases of livestock being confiscated, killed and huts set ablaze under claims of encroaching protected areas, despite the fact that most of the newly gazetted parks found the villagers already existing in the said precincts, often with legal title deeds,” said Mr Porokwa.
The Simanjiro MP, James ole Millya, representing the opposition CHADEMA also lauded the President’s move, reminding that many leaders have come and passed without taking into consideration the needs of marginalized communities, but with Dr Magufuli things have changed for the better.
Edward Lekaita from Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) said that in reality wild animals spent much of their time outside the national parks’ borders therefore it was important to involve villagers in issues of conservation.
On his part, George Bajuta, the CCWT chairperson, reminded villagers that now that the President has given granted them this commendable consideration they should not let him down by encroaching the protected areas beyond the areas earmarked as their villages.
“Nearly 400 villages were about to suffer mass evictions were it not for the President’s intervention,” he stated.
That is why they were organizing nationwide peaceful demonstrations to support the Head of State and the fifth phase government for recognizing their rights and taking note of the predicament of marginalized communities.
The Head of State on Tuesday ordered immediate suspension of a countrywide operation to remove people who settled in protected areas, instead directing authorities to begin the process of formalising the settlements.
About 366 villages located within various protected areas in the country had already been earmarked for removal. But the President has now directed that border change documents be prepared within one month and the same presented in the next session of Parliament.