Field Coordinators: Melly Reuling, Joseph Lendii
P.O. Box 12644, Arusha , Tanzania , East Africa
Village Game Scout Monitoring Program brings entire community into conservation
In the tiny village of Tinga Tinga at the base of Kilimanjaro's western slopes a small group of concerned Masai people are participating in a wildlife monitoring and management project funded and administered by Tazama Trust. Every day village game scouts take off on foot through the bush to collect data on wildlife distribution and density, human/wildlife conflict and illegal activities. Over the past five years of the West Kilimanjaro Village Game Scout Monitoring Program results show that wildlife is increasing and poaching and other illegal activities are decreasing.
As a spin off to the monitoring program a Conservation Club has been started in the overcrowded grade school of Tinga Tinga . Enthusiastic children meet several times a month to learn about the wildlife species that are their neighbors and have fun in conservation related activities such as art projects and wildlife films. The village game scouts can bring the children tales of their work in the surrounding bush and some children aspire to be game scouts after getting out of school. As a result of bringing wildlife conservation into the lives of village members and their children, consciousness raising about wildlife and resources is occurring at the most grass roots level.
One of the most significant side benefits of the program has been controlling the cutting of trees for charcoal production. It is common in remote areas like West Kilimanjaro for gangs of people to come into remote areas in pickup trucks, set up camp in a isolated patch of acacia forest and start cutting the trees and burning them in huge pits to make charcoal. The charcoal is then carted to town in gunny sacks and sold to townspeople. This practice, commonly referred to as "charcoal Burning" is decimating the acacia woodlands of northern Tanzania . The charcoal burners have no permission to cut the trees and the local communities get none of the proceeds. What was once a forest that provided food for wildlife and wood for cooking fires is now a field of stumps.
When the game scouts encounter illegal activities such as charcoal burning or wildlife poaching they report the activities to the village who can take punitive action or they can send a message to Arusha and get help from the Anti Poaching Unit of the Wildlife Division. The community is very pleased with the empowerment the have received through this program. By conserving their own pastoral lands they are preserving their traditional way of life and conserving wildlife for future generations.
An important aspect of the West Kilimanjaro program is to promote sustainable tourism into the area. Several villages have identified campsites that are currently being used sporadically by tourist companies. Revenue from camping fees goes to the village government and is used for village improvement projects such as water or schools. More tourism needs to be promoted as wildlife populations in the area are diverse and abundant and the area is stunningly beautiful. West Kilimanjaro is part of the traditional range of the world famous Amboseli elephant population. Amboseli National Park , just across the border collects nearly 4 million dollars in gate revenues every year! If the West Kilimanjaro communities can further protect and organize their wild resources they too could benefit from tourist dollars.
To reach this goal, more of the villages in the area need to be brought into the monitoring program for larger scale tourism to take place. Educating villagers of their options and training game scouts is time consuming and expensive and the program currently lacks the resources to expand the program. Village game scouts need good shoes, communication systems and in some cases transportion to carry out monitoring and anti-poaching activities. The area needs to be mapped and zoned and a management plan needs to be developed. This area has the resource and local interest to become a Wildlife Management Area (WMA): a conservation area recognized by the government and managed by and for the local community. The West Kilimanjaro Conservation Project is committed to making wildlife conservation succeed by working with and through the local communities.
- Widespread Awareness Programs in villages concerned
- Wildlife Surveys and monitoring data collection
- Village Game Scout Training
- Conservation clubs in a few of the local schools
Project's Immediate Needs:
- Bikes and motorcycles for Monitoring & Anti-Poaching Activity
- Funding to provide expertise for mapping the area and developing zone plans
- Funding to expand the conservation club into neighboring villages
- Funding to sponser game scouts in neighboring villages for monitoring and training activities
- Promotion of the area for tourism activities
- Books and other resources for the conservation club and the village councils