Fair, focused and effective conservation – every cent goes to the local communities practicing conservation
The Challenge: The grasslands of the Maasai Steppe’s Simanjiro Plains are crucial grazing areas for both wildlife and cattle for the local Maasai. Historically, a fine balance was maintained between the grazing needs of the wildlife and the livestock, but over time hunting, farming, population and other pressures have severely diminished the grazing lands and wildlife numbers. An alarming amount of land has been and is currently being transformed into farms which are marginally productive and often owned by non-village outsiders, with no ‘return’ going to the local Maasai pastoralists. This has resulted in a severe decline in wildlife numbers and an increase in pressures on Maasai livelihoods and cultural values.
The Solution - Simanjiro Grazing Easement: So, in 2004, a consortium of concerned tour operators, working collaboratively with a local NGO (Ujamaa Community Resource Team – UCRT), developed a ‘Grazing Easement’ with Terrat Village, which lies about 50 kilometers east of Tarangire National Park on the Simanjiro plains. The Maasai expressed concerns over losing grazing resources as their land continued to be converted into farms. The tour operators realized the importance to their businesses of wildlife in the wider ecosystem, even though none of them actually operated in the area around Terrat village. Thus, they proposed to contribute an annual fee to the village, and in return the village would formally prohibit farming and permanent settlements in a demarcated grazing area. This was formalized through a negotiated five-year contract that is renewable. This basically gives the village an incentive to protect a key portion of wildlife habitat- the portion of the Simanjiro plains that falls within Terrat village’s legally demarcated village lands which is roughly 120 sq kms. And in 2010, Sukuro village also joined the easement further protecting 155 sq kms. The result is that almost 300 sq kms of key grassland habitat has been preserved for the Maasai livestock as well as the wildlife, and the wave of destructive farming pressure has been stopped.
How it works:
- It's successful and highly cost-effective" - Roughly $10,000 in direct payments go to these communities per year to preserve and protect 275 sq kms of grassland. These aren't just any grasslands however, instead they are habitat supporting thousands of wildebeest, zebra, eland, ostrich, giraffes, and hundreds of species of birds and small mammals, as well as the livelihoods of several thousand Maasai. Payments to the communities comes to about $36 per square kilometer annually! And it has been successful. One large illegal farm has been stopped through a village lawsuit and court order, which will discourage future incursions of agriculture into the locally-protected area. In addition, the village scouts have been active in working to prevent illegal poaching, such as working with law enforcement officials recently to arrest a gang of zebra skin poachers. Some species of wildlife on the plains, such as giraffe, have become noticeably more common and unafraid of vehicles since the project was initiated.
- Village Game Scouts and Anti-Poaching Efforts - The village game scout program supported by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been ramped u,p with 26 scouts employed and supported with training, equipment and monitoring. These scouts cover Sukuro, Terat, Emboreet, Makame and Mswakini village areas A coordinator with a motorcycle has been hired to work with the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT). In addition, two Maasai Steppe designated vehicles have been purchased through WCS and stationed at two Tarangire National Park ranger posts (Boundary Hill and Loibor Sirret) to enable more effective back-up for these scouts. Between the easements that protect land and habitat and the more effective anti poaching by village scouts, we can have realistic hope that the Tarangire ecosystem will survive relatively intact for the next decades.
We need your help - Most land remains unprotected.The bulk of the grasslands are on the lands of Terrat, Sukuro and Emboreet villages. So far, easement agreements havebeen signed with Terrat and Sukuro Villages, but this is just a small piece of the larger ecosystem, which continues to be threatened by expanding agriculture in other village areas. A solution is needed for other grasslands, which are being lost at an incredible rate. In addition to the easement payments and support of the village game scouts, these communities are poised to create communal land titles (CCRO – Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy) that give a legal land tenure status to the easements that would undergird the incentive payments. While the CCRO process is costly, it is a one-time cost that will further secure the integrity of these community lands that Tarangire National Park’s wildlife depend on.
Results - Your donation will lead to:
- Strong, healthy herds of wildebeest, zebra, oryx, gazelles, eland and hartebeest – all contributing to the overall health of the Maasai Steppe ecosystem and Tarangire National Park.
- Strong, healthy herds of livestock sustaining traditional pastoral livelihoods and supporting hundreds of families.
- Strong, healthy grasslands, soils and plant communities of Rift Valley savannah.
(please specify your donation is for the easement)
Also, read this article, “Making Wildlife Pay in Northern Tanzania” by Fred Nelson in EcoSystem MarketPlace.