Reports that concerted wildlife conservation efforts are bearing fruit are good news indeed. It is common knowledge that Tanzania had for a long time been in the international spotlight for the wanton slaughter of wildlife – particularly elephants – in its national parks, game reserves and other protected areas. The country was consistently in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The situation was particularly serious about a decade ago when consignments of elephant tusks worth billions of shillings were seized overseas and traced back to East Africa, specifically Tanzania and Kenya.
With Tanzania’s elephant population in a downward spiral, the government launched Operation Tokomeza (eradicate) to stamp out poaching and save elephants from imminent extinction.
Operation Tokomeza was a short-lived undertaking and was suspended following allegations of widespread human rights abuses. The controversy led to the sacking of several Cabinet ministers.
Come 2014, and Tanzania’s reputation was in tatters, and with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism facing seemingly insurmountable odds to stop the unrestrained slaughter in national parks and game reserves.
With powerful vested interests at the centre of the illegal trade in ivory, the ministry’s work was cut out, but the adoption of a new approach to tackling poaching started to show promising results.
For several years now local communities have been engaged in conservation efforts and being made to feel an important link in the current drive to save elephants and other endangered species.
Hopefully, this will continue, but it should not be lost on us that conservation efforts will succeed only if all stakeholders pull in one direction with the aim of stamping out poaching once and for all.
There is no way Tanzania can realise its goal of attracting at least 5 million tourists annually in the next few years if efforts to protect wildlife are not be sustained.
LAND ROWS: INCLUSIVITY IS KEY
Land disputes, particularly in rural areas, create enmity between communities that are supposed to coexist, and may lead to physical confrontation, maiming and even deaths.
In any case, they do have an adverse impact to one degree or another on meaningful and sustainable socioeconomic development at the household, community and national levels.
The major causes of land disputes are more or less the same the world over.
Fortunately, these are already well-known and, if nothing else, this makes it that much easier to sort them out and, hopefully, create an environment that is friendly to land use, land ownership, land transfer, related compensations, etc.
Basic to this is to prioritise comprehensive land use planning across the country that is both prudent and practical.
But for the planning to be realistic, it must include all the interested parties, and take into account their different interests proportionally – guided by sheer wisdom, fairness and the desire to do justice all-round.