What President Samia Needs To Know About Ngorongoro
The story of indigenous people dispossessed by colonialism is an old one - spanning over three centuries. You would think we would have become more civilized, more compassionate, and more able to do something to prevent such a violation of human rights. It is my hope that, in telling you this story, you will be compelled to put a stop to this practice of violating the rights of indigenous people and pushing them off their land.
The indigenous Maasai people are a remarkable pastoral people who have, for hundreds of years, lived with their cattle on the rangeland, co-existing and interacting with wildlife.
Because of their expertise in management and conservation of resources for wildlife and livestock, the Maasai ecosystem is home to spectacular assemblages of African wildlife populations.
This is in contrast to most of the rest of the world where the average size of wildlife populations has plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years, according to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), which resident Maasai call their ancestral home, Maasai ecological strategies and practices are being dismantled by external pressures, such as neo-colonial racist policies restricting the use of their land, loss of land through encroachment by farmers surrounding the area, and land grabs by foreigners.
The parts of Maasailand (in Tanzania and Kenya) -- which are still left with wildlife -- have been populated by Maasai for centuries. Traditionally, Maasai children started learning about the ecosystem when they were old enough to herd small livestock. The Maasai were expert conservationists, maintaining a healthy environment for livestock and wildlife.
Before they were pressured to move from the Serengeti to settle in the more confining Ngorongoro highlands in 1994, they moved during the change in seasons, seeking better resources when water and pasture dried up. In the rainy season they lived in the lowland plains between Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti plateau, and in the dry season they sought grazing land in the highlands or near the sources of streams.
“We conserve nature because we live in it, because it is our life, it is the life of our cattle. The conservation people [referring to NCA authorities] do it because it gives them employment, because they get money from the white men [tourists]. For them, if the white man does not bring money, it is the end of the story. For us, even if the white man does not bring money we will still preserve the environment. We did it before the white men came. We do because it is our lives, it is the life of our ancestors and our unborn children.” …. (elder man)
Even though UNESCO acknowledged the importance of both wildlife and Maasai and their interaction -- and declared Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve -- the management of the NCA claimed there was a conflict between wildlife values and pastoralist activities and in 1980 the NCA authorities sought to expel the pastoralists - even though it was their homeland.
The population numbers cited by the NCA Authority as evidence of indigenous overpopulation and unsustainability include non-indigenous NCA staff (some of them retired), their families, tourist-related staff, health care workers, school teachers, religious workers, (15% of total population) and immigrants (40% of total population).
Since 1980 multiple attempts have been made to force the Maasai to leave the land. In addition, the NCA authorities closed several water and pasture resources to the Maasai livestock and banned cultivation, resulting in malnutrition among the residents.
Promises had been made -- as compensation for taking their land -- to provide grain and social services, such as education, health care, and water; but these promises were only partially fulfilled.
Take education for example: the NCA, with 100,000 people, occupies half of a District, while the other half of the District has the same number of people. Yet, only 37% of the whole District primary education students are in NCA. This means about 30,000 more students should be enrolled in the NCA in order to keep pace with the schooling rate of the rest of the district.
And there are health care centers that nobody wants to go to because there is a language barrier between the doctor and the patient.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 countries included these three goals: Goal 1: No poverty, Goal 2: No hunger, Goal 3: Good health and well-being. Because the authority stopped cultivation and restricted grazing land, and failed to provide sufficient food relief (maize), Goals 1, 2, and 3 are not met. Good nutrition requires 270kg per household of four, once a year. The NCAA claims to give 100kg of maize per year, while Maasai residents claim it's more like 25kg twice a year (50kg), and not to all households, and it’s not free.
Ngorongoro symbolises a growing pattern of land use conflict between indigenous and capitalists all over the world. Questions about the nature of development, the tradeoff between productivity (maximum resource extraction) and sustainability (subsistence), and the future of traditional ways of life, all occur in other places.
“The biggest source of injustice of indigenous people in local communities right now, is coming from conservation authorities in the protected lands.” (Yannick Ndoinyo, Twitter)
Even though tourism has exploded, and earnings from foreigners are rising annually, and Tanzania is one of the most popular destinations in Africa, the indigenous people -- whose homeland is being used -- have seen little of the benefits from tourism.
The neglect by the NCA Authority of its responsibilities to the Maasai pastoral economy; its increasingly restrictive measures against grazing and cultivation; its repressive and punitive measures against the local population; and its increasingly evident failure to stem the tide of poaching from within its ranks; and environmental degradation caused by land and resource uses which affect both wildlife and pastoralist interests -- such as the effect of big hotels and rampant tourism on the NCA ecosystem -- all show that the NCA Authority has failed to fulfill its dual mandate of conservation and pastoral development.
Latest News: “On 28th October 2020 when our people were responding for call of democracy, police and game rangers (Ngorongoro conservation game wardens) opened fire against innocent armless civilian voters and polling agents in Oloirobi and Ngorongoro, in an attempt to remove polling agents for opposition political parties to facilitate election rigging in favor of CCM candidates. One person has been confirmed dead and four others have been severely wounded by the police bullet."
When you go on travel "adventures" please take note of how the local people are treated. Call out and report your touring company if you think they are complicit in poor treatment of the locals, or if they are harmful to the environment, or if the locals don't profit from your travel "adventure". ... It is our intent to keep score.
The following is from the Chanzo, from which the above title comes .....
The narrative is also false. When the Conservation Area was first established in 1959, the population was almost 9,000 and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggests that there were more than sixty thousand people in the area in 2012. If the population rises by 30 per cent as per NBS data (2012 National census), then the NCAA population by 2022 will be approximately or slightly beyond 80,000 people. President Samia and her government suggest that Ngorongoro, a land of 8,292 km² area cannot accommodate around 90,000 pastoral people! If we are to go by the NBS (2017) estimates then the population density is now ten people per km², which is far much lower than the 51 people per km² nationwide..
In fact, Ngorongoro is geographically bigger than countries like The Gambia and Cape Verde. It is more than five times bigger than Dar es Salaam and almost four times bigger than Zanzibar. Besides, the same animals that the government complains to be nearing extinction every year in their millions from Ngorongoro via Serengeti to the five times smaller Maasai Mara. Saying that they are on the brink of extinction in Ngorongoro, where its population density is 9 to 10 people per km², is nothing but a preposterous tale.
As for the claim that human settlement disturbs wildlife, available facts also render this claim false. Between December to April every year, which coincides with the only rain season in Ngorongoro, the migration of millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle among others, arrive in the Ngorongoro short grass plains. Wildebeest must be avoided by the pastoral people to avoid the deadly malignant fever to livestock particularly cows. So, in the five months that the wildlife migration is in the Ngorongoro area and the only calving period for the wildebeest, you cannot spot any single cow in the plain, making the claim that pastoralism is disturbing wildlife calving an argument dead on arrival. Limiting pastoralism access to the highland, which has been the case since 1974, and the more restriction in 2017 and the current recommendation being considered to grab 82 per cent of the NCAA land for conservation, mean nothing else to pastoralists than a genocide that should not be allowed to happen.
Check out the rest of the Chanzo report
Please read the full report (history and background): Maasai Eviction from Ngorongoro (220 pages - PDF)