The success is linked with good neighborhood projects initiated by the park with purposes of ensuring that surrounding communities benefit directly from the park. The Ruaha National Park is surrounded by five districts.
“Prior to introduction of the projects, villagers surrounding the park were intentionally involved in poaching through various ways,” said Amina Rashid Salum, the park’s conservation officer.
Amina was speaking to journalists who were on a field visit at the Ruaha National Park in Iringa region. The tour was organized by the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) with support from Internews –Earth Journalism Network.
According to the Conservation Officer, the projects have resulted into a good relationship with the villagers whereas they are now sharing important information that helps to control poaching.
“The park has set up a special neighborhood unit that deals with various development projects in the community, she said noting the park provides 90 percent of the monies required to implement the villager’s proposed development projects.
Emakulata Mbawi, is the Community Relations and Conservation Officer, she said the development projects that have been so far implemented includes construction of health centers, classrooms and teachers' houses.
Other projects are the construction of laboratories, dams and hostel for secondary school students.
Mbawi said they have also assisted villagers to initiate income generating projects such as beekeeping in three villages in Chamwino District.
One of the residents from Tungamalenga village in Idodi ward, Nisan Fungito said that previously poaching was widely conducted in the park but villagers did not consider it a problem.
He said: “Some villagers participated in poaching activities and others were used to provide accommodation to poachers under special agreements. They were doing all these because they benefited with the presence of the park.”
Fungito noted that villagers were also not educated on the importance of wildlife conservation.
He acknowledged that the situation has positively changed as villagers are happy with the implemented projects. He said youth were previously involved in poaching because they had no other source of income.
Idodi Ward Executive Officer, Abdulatifu Issa said that establishment of the good neighborhood units has facilitated information sharing between the villagers and park officers.
According to Issa, a number of youth in the area have benefited with job opportunities at the park.
The Ward Executive Officer called for strengthened relationships between the park and villagers to make them contribute more in wildlife protection.