TRAVEL : Exploring the other side of Randilen

Sunday January 22 2017
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The vast expanse of savannah rangelands has been fascinating the human race throughout the ages and contain some of the most spectacular and diverse wildlife populations found anywhere in Africa. PHOTOI ELISHA MAYALLAH AND HONEYGUIDE.

The north of Tanzania is one of the traditional travel destinations, which have been open for tourists for decades because of its vast natural landscape and cultures that are existing in a time warp. It undoubtedly has a lot to offer and is a safe and friendly destination to travel to.

Looking up in the horizon is a camaraderie scenery which creates a sense of awe and wonders holding magic and mystery. Whether you’re a tourist or just mesmerised by space, northern Tanzania unarguably offers the best of the beaten path delights for the discerning traveller.

I recently travelled to the peripherals of the border between Manyara and Arusha regions as part of exploring. A big conservation idea is being implemented by communities that could make one of its strongest drawcards.

A cluster of eight villages has transformed their land into two grazing zones. The green zone which comprises nearly 48,000 acres has been set aside for pasture during the dry season while the yellow zone set within 600 acres is an all year grazing field.

The cluster of villages home to the Maasai community also serves as a wildlife migratory corridor for two protected areas, Lake Manyara and Tarangire national parks.

The establishment of grazing zones as part of addressing environmental impacts and climate change is one of the many outstanding examples of the initiative that is being implemented by communities and supported by the Northern Tanzania Rangelands Initiative (NTRI).

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NTRI is a caucus of conservation and development organisations working to bring environmentally sustainable economic development to rural communities. Its focus seeks to halt current trends and permanently protect the landscape for the benefit of the people and nature.

The NTRI project has pooled the expertise of ten diverse organisation partners who each bring different but specialised skills, knowledge, and experiences.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a lead partner bringing a global experience of landscape level conservation planning. Other collaborating partners include Carbon Tanzania, Dorobo Fund, Honeyguide, Maliasili Initiatives, Oikos, Pathfinder International, Tanzania People and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society and Ujamaa Community Resource Team.

Mathew Brown, the Africa Conservation Director for TNC said the NTRI partnership model is meant to complement one another in an integrated way. And to facilitate collaborations that will assist them to achieve shared goals by leveraging skills and resources and setting clear joint targets at various scales. A USAID grant is one of the latest funding received by NTRI whose work spans over a decade.

In all this, NTRI aims at combining efforts that target appropriate economic development in communities that are dominated by pastoralist herders who depend on healthy rangelands to support their herds.

The vast expanse of savannah rangelands has been fascinating the human race throughout the ages and contain some of the most spectacular and diverse wildlife populations found anywhere in Africa. And it has one of the most biologically and economically important natural resources in Tanzania.

This dual importance is central to the way wildlife is managed and used. The biological importance attracts the involvement of international and national conservation agencies with a mandate to preserve wildlife populations and their habitats in a natural state.

The economic importance is obvious at local, regional, and national scales. Wildlife-based tourism provides one of Tanzania’s largest and most rapidly expanding sources of national revenue.

The ability of wildlife in northern Tanzania to continue providing these values at the landscape level depends on to a great deal on the actions and interests of rural communities.

Although a large and extensive network of national parks and other protected areas has been established, these parks are not enough to conserve wildlife and key habitats. And throughout the northern region, wildlife is dependent on communal and private lands for effective conservation of migratory routes and dispersal areas. On these communal and private lands, wildlife management is still facing many challenges and the resource’s values threatened.

Grazing is an important use of rangelands, said Mzee William Sanare, the Naitolia village leader when he took us around to see the set-aside land of nearly 4000 acres in his village. The land is full of grass grown to graze livestock during the dry season.

Amazed by the lush grass and the serenity of the demarcated land, it was interesting to note the villages are no longer mired in grazing conflict. In addition, it is highly unlikely they will suffer from the current drought which is mainly associated with below average rainfall.

Landscape level conservation, according to Ms Chira Schouten NTRI Coordinator, has the potential to provide alternative revenues to communities who are often under pressure to clear land for low-yield agriculture, among other critical reasons.

However, Chira stresses that landscapes face a wide array of competing interests and increasing pressures threatening its sustainability, successful outcomes need varied skill sets, networks, connections, and resources. It’s a process.

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