Tanzania want to move Maasai from Ngorongoro reserve to protect wildlife

Black colored wildebeest running through water, animal news
Wildebeests crossing Mara river, photo: Andre Anita via Canva

Tanzania wants to move Maasai farmers from the Ngorongoro conservation area, where zebras, elephants and wildebeests live. Tanzania has allowed indigenous communities such as the Maasai to live within some national parks, but the government said the population of Maasai people has become so large they’ve become a threat to wildlife.

Since 1959, the number of humans living in the Ngorongoro reserve, a World Heritage Site, has gone from 8,000 to more than 100,000 last year. “Ngorongoro is getting lost,” president Samia Suluhu Hassan said last year. “We agreed to make it unique by allowing people and wildlife to stay together but the human population is now out of hand.”

The sheep and cow population has grown even more quickly, from around 260,000 in 2017 to over one million today. The government said the relationship between the farmers and wildlife has become dangerous, with animals attacking people and their farm animals.

Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has proposed a voluntary relocation scheme to Handeni district where the government has 162,000 hectares (400,000 acres) of land for the Maasai: “We are taking you to areas where you will have access to schools, hospitals and electricity.” Around 450 people have accepted the Handeni relocation proposal, Majaliwa said two weeks ago.

The community is divided over the issue, with many reluctant to leave the only home they have ever known.

Long before Tanzania created national parks aimed at attracting tourists, the Maasai co-existed with wildlife in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

But as climate change leads to prolonged droughts and low crop yields, pressure on farmers has increased, forcing them into conflict with
wildlife over access to food and water.

“If we allow this to continue, we will definitely disturb the wildebeest migration,” a conservation official told news agency AFP, declining to give his name for security reasons.

But tribal rights activists and opposition leaders have accused the authorities of using conservation as a cover-up for economic exploitation,
citing earlier cases when wealthy foreigners were granted trophy hunting rights in Ngorongoro district.

In 2009, thousands of Maasai families were evicted from Loliondo, located 125 kilometres (75 miles) from the Ngorongoro conservation area, to allow the United Arab Emirates-based safari company, Ortelo Business Corporation, to organise hunting trips there.

But some Maasai want to leave as human-wildlife conflicts grow in the area. “Personally, I will respect the government proposal as long as it guarantees a better life for my cattle and me,” a resident who identified himself as Lazaro told AFP.

“I want to continue living here, but the government pressure makes me think of going,” said a Maasai man who spoke to AFP. “But accepting easily is like betraying our tribal leaders.”

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