Not many people know much, or at all, about Tanzania’s butterfly export business, mostly from Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Njombe Regions...
And that the authorities have formulated a Butterfly Breeding Programme to increase the country’s butterfly exports – usually to France, Germany, the UK and the US – named strictly in alphabetical order!
Admittedly, ‘butterfly farming’ is currently done by small-scale breeders, each of whom earns an average Tsh600,000 (roughly US$270) from the ‘harvest’ that’s done every two months! So, in (say) four annual harvests, that’s $1080 in forex from export sales: decidedly more than the US$900-plus gross domestic product (GDP) per capita which Tanzanians are ‘credited’ with in Statisticians’ papers, ‘Makaratasi!’
Again: how many people know that Zanzibar – the Isles part of the United Republic – established the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre in Year-2008. ZBC has become “one of Africa’s largest butterfly exhibits facility, housing more than 50 species of native butterflies – including creatures like the hard-to-catch ‘flying handkerchief:’ a black-and-white African swallowtail!”
Accredited as “an interactive butterfly exhibit,” the Centre’s a major tourist attraction, consisting of “a netted tropical garden with usually hundreds of butterflies, all of which are native species to Zanzibar.”
Not only does ZBC “provide residents and tourists alike an interactive and visual environment to learn about butterflies; it also sells butterfly pupae for export.” [Global Trade Magazine/©2015 Global Trade].
But, that’s a tale fit to be narrated more fully another day...
Today’s story’s about the ban on Tanzania’s butterfly exports by the Ministry of Tourism&Natural Resources. [See ‘Zuio usafirishaji nje Vipepeo lawatesa wafugaji Muheza;’ MWANANCHI: July 31, 2017]. The ban’s already playing havoc with Tanzania’s butterfly business.
Indeed, it’d seriously hurting roughly 400 local butterfly farmers, including especially the 156 (43% women) operating from the Amani Nature Reserve in the Eastern Usambara Mountains, “a biodiverse area where forests are wantonly being cleared for farmland and charcoal production!”
Reportedly, the ban doesn’t specify ‘butterflies’ as such; it simply alludes to exports of endangered wildlife species. Yet, it’s rigorously enforced against butterfly exports as if they’re an endangered species!
According to the Project Manager of the 156 local Butterfly Farmers Group in Muheza, Amiri Sheghembe: before the ban was imposed some three years ago, farmers from six villages earned about Tsh500m in forex during Years-2004-2015 from the 31 butterfly varieties they breed and export! [‘Tusiporuhusu uuzaji vipepeo, Msitu wa Amani utatoweka;’ JAMHURI: Aug. 8, 2017].
Butterflies have no local market to speak of!
Considering that Tanzanians are more than willing, able and ready to breed butterflies which are in great demand abroad – and, considering further that butterflies’ lifespan’s only around six weeks – the butterfly business’s one of the very few economic activities that have relatively early/fast returns on investment! Besides, it’s an activity that doesn’t need a huge investment or complex/intricate/prohibitive start-up – thus providing ordinary Tanzanians with opportunities to effectively participarte in the country’s economic development, even as they honestly make ends meet!
Therefore, it’s most consternating that the farmers weren’t consulted – or otherwise ‘taken into account,’ so to speak – when the authorities were contemplating the embargo. I hope the Natural Resources&Tourism Minister, Jumanne Maghembe – or, if it must come to that.
Butterflies are generally harmless creatures with ecological, aesthetic, educational and economic values.
Indeed, butterfly-farming easily generates forex income for Economies starved of hard currency. For example, the Amani Butterly Project sells pupae for US$1-$2.50 apiece to Live Butterfly Exhibits in the US and Europe throughout the year! [CNN; allAfrica].
Why’d Tanzania ban the butterfly business – thus shooting itself in the (economic) foot – when Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, El Salvador, Surinam, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and even the mighty US, continue to exploit the trade? Come-on, Tanzania...!