Relocations were meant to protect Ngorongoro, Tanzanian govt says

A Maasai boy (in the background) tends to livestock amidst wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in this photo taken early this week. PHOTO | SUNDAY GEORGE

What you need to know:

  • Chief Government spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi told reporters on Wednesday, January 17 that if nothing is done, Ngorongoro will be destroyed by 67 percent in the next 26 years

Msomera. The government said yesterday that it took the decision to relocate people from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) in order to protect the area and its unique ecosystem from further destruction. If nothing is done, Chief Government spokesperson Mobhare Matinyi told reporters yesterday, Ngorongoro will be destroyed by 67 percent in the next 26 years.

Briefing journalists touring Ngorongoro and Msomera to see the situation on the ground, Mr Matinyi further noted that if the government does not take quick interventions, including relocating the people from the conservation area, there is danger of losing Ngorongoro.

"Following its multipurpose use, we are in danger of destroying it by 67 percent in the near future if action is not taken. Currently, it's destroyed by 44 percent,” he said.

Ngorongoro crater is made up of an inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera.

Mr Matinyi explained that the tourists go to Ngorongoro to see wild animals interacting in their own way and not livestock that are currently scattered in the area, occupying a large part of the NCA.

In the last six months of 2023, there were at least 534,000 tourists that visited Ngorongoro.

After people and livestock were relocated, authorities noticed that the types of grass growing in those areas had changed. "The type of species has changed, and it's not friendly to the ecosystem that lives there," he said.

He noted that the National Service was building houses for relocated people at Msomwea. A total of 677 families with 3833 people have already moved there.

"We don't have the actual cost of each house being built due to fluctuating prices, but they could range between Sh15 million and Sh25 million," he said.

On his part, while briefing the media about the project, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) senior conservation public relations officer Kassim Nyaki said the conservation of Serengeti and Ngorongoro ecosystems started in 1959, when there were 8000 people and 260,000 livestock.

He said that in 2017, a study was conducted and found that the human population had increased to 110,000 with 800,000 livestock.

"There was an increase in people and livestock, but the size of the land remained the same. A decision had to be made to rescue the Ngorongorio Conservation Area," he said.

He noted that the exercise of transferring people from Ngorongoro started in June 2022, and in 2023, the second phase of the project began.

"In the first phase, we started with 503 houses and moved 551 households," he said.

According to him, they started the construction of 5000 houses in the second phase; 1500 houses in the Msomera area; 1500 houses in Kitwai; and 1000 houses in Kilindi. Also, schools and hospitals were constructed.

The goal is to relocate 20,000 households by March 2024, of which 10,000 will go to Msomera, Kitwai, and Saunyi areas while 4000 will go to other areas of their choice.

He noted that until January 12, 2024, a total of 525 households had registered to relocate to Msomera, and among them, 126 had moved.

Life at Msomera

A resident of Msomera, Saiboko Laizer, said life was good at Msomera, where they can now conduct their economic activities without much restriction of movement.

"We can now move freely like the rest of Tanzanians, grow crops, start businesses, and even build modern houses that were restricted at Ngorogoro because it is a conservation area," he said.

He noted that he has started a maize milling business after securing a machine worth Sh5.5 million that he hopes will improve his life going forward.

On his part, Enduleni Ward Councillor in Ngorongoroi, Johannes Tiamas, said they have been moved from a life of poverty to a life of prosperity like other Tanzanians, where they now have electricity, modern houses, farms to grow crops, and most importantly, security from wild animals that could attack them at any time, especially at night.

'We no longer depend on our livestock for survival; we now have crops that can be used for food and commercial purposes," he said, adding that some of their colleagues have also opened businesses to cater to their family needs.

He further explained that some residents were yet to make decisions to leave Ngorongoro, maybe due to fear of the unknown, but assured them all was well; the government had empowered them and their families to leave a life like that of other Tanzanians.

A tour of Msomera showed that they have schools, hospitals, water wells, TTCL communications towers, postal offices, as well as modern three-bedroom houses for each family.

Life in Ngorongoro

A tour of Ngorongoro revealed traditional houses with thatched roofs, with some of the houses destroyed after its residents relocated to the new areas.

Further, the tour showed children taking care of livestock in the middle of wild animals such as rhinos, hippopotamus, and other beautiful animals and birds.

However, at Nainokanoka and Alailwlai wards, there were too many livestock grazing and, therefore, no wild animals on site.

Despite numerous reports, the tour also revealed that there were enough social services, including hospitals, schools, and churches, for more people than those who relocated.