Tanzania: Hunger in a World Heritage Site. Where is the World?
We, CSOs representing the interests of pastoralists in Tanzania are deeply disturbed by widely circulating news that people have died of hunger and a face a multiplicity of other hunger related complications in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is reported that children and adults have died of hunger and malnutrition in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the last few years. While the exact number of children and adults who have died has not been ascertained for lack of a systematic survey, it is irrefutable that indeed people have died of hunger in Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
According to authoritative information from Endulen Catholic Hospital, 14 children were admitted at the Hospital in November 2012 on the grounds of acute malnutrition. In May 2011, a deadly outbreak of Measles hit the whole of the conservation Area affecting some 1,000 children. The Government denied the death of 200 children reported by village authorities, reducing the number to only 19. No independent survey was taken to establish the exact number of deaths. In any case, these children would not have died if they were not suffering from malnutrition. The fact that this is happening in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a place of global renown and significance is even more disturbing and scandalously embarrassing. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is known across borders for its unmatched scenic beauty, spectacular wildlife and its historical, archaeological and paleontological significance. It is in recognition of its outstanding characteristics that the area was inscribed twice to the Heritage Convention as a World Heritage Site (in 1979 and 2010) as well as Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1981. It is also to disturbing to witness hunger happening in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a land of premier tourist destination bringing unmatched revenue to the Nation. In the fiscal year ending June 2012, NCAA earned over US$ 50 million (roughly TSh54 billion) from gate entrance fees alone, every tourist entering NCA must pay $50 per day. However, NCAA gave a mere TSh1.5 billion (less than 3%) to the Pastoral Council, a local body representing the interests of local communities in the affairs on the conservation area. This money, although minimal, is not reaching the intended beneficiaries, the communities in times of crises due to bureaucratic procurement hurdles. The Government scandalously failed to timely distribute 3,600 tons of maize from the National Grain Reserve at TSh 315 million that was paid from the allocation to the Pastoral Council in August 2012. If this food was distributed in time, the present hunger catastrophe could have been greatly averted. It is unacceptable and utterly embarrassing that people should die of hunger in the land of plenty with enough resources at disposal. How Could Hunger possibly happen in a World Heritage Site? The ongoing hunger situation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area is part of a complex situation facing communities who are facing increasing exclusion in what primarily does now appear to be an exclusive wildlife sanctuary. When Ngorongoro Conservation Area was created in 1959, human development was guaranteed to co-exist along wildlife conservation and tourism. The interest of pastoralists was given greater significance by the Government of the time but as time went on, tourism and conservation seem to have dominated the agenda in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The local community has lost large sections of its ancestral land in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area since the1950s. Increasingly, there are more Maasai-no-go-areas like the Craters and most of the Highlands. Alienation of land and a battery of restrictions on grazing resources deny pastoralists the flexibility to access scarce, scattered and seasonably varying resources in the conservation area. When this is combined with climate change, occasional livestock deaths and reducing and unpredictable precipitation patterns, the pastoral economy is facing severe stress and therefore leading to vulnerability and food insecurity. It is now more than seven long months since harsh drought hit the Ngorongoro Division crashing cattle prices from between TSh300,000 and TSh700,000 to between TSh50,000 and TSh300,000. On the other hand the maize prices rocketed from Tsh.54,000 to TSh 81,000 per 100kg bag. Very few families can cope with the surging prices. A huge majority of the estimated 70,000 residence of the area are facing acute hunger and starvation. Food security and human rights violations are unfortunately also linked to the international significance that has been attached to Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The present hunger situation can, in the immediate be attributed to a harsh and hurriedly made decision by the Government in 2009 to re-impose the ban on cultivation without coming with an alternative means of livelihood and food security for the local community in the Conservation Area. International conservation actors such as UNESCO and IUCN cannot deny culpability in the present hunger situation since they are known to have pressurized the Government to re-impose the ban on cultivation owing to a perceived deterioration of the integrity of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as World Heritage Site. This mounting pressure is also taking place at a time when UNESCO is further pressurizing the Government to undertake a carrying capacity of the NCA owing to an onerously made conclusion that the present livestock and human population is surpassing the carrying capacity of the area. From the foregoing, it appears that the present hunger situation in Ngorongoro at the moment is only a glimpse of a multiplicity of factors that combine to deprive the community secure livelihood, human rights and food security. Given the complex nature of the situation, an urgent and well-coordinated response of different actors is needed. This should ideally go beyond the present hunger-situation. It is in view of this complexity that we give the following recommendations. Recommendations We urgently call the Government of Tanzania and other responsible stakeholders to undertake the following to address increasing problems of the local community in Ngorongoro: 1. To publicly declare that there is indeed a hunger situation in Ngorongoro. This is important among others to allow interested parties (including international relief agencies) to move fast to rescue local people from further deprivation. 2. To urgently supply relief food in Ngorongoro Conservation and especially to destitute families who are unable to purchase grain and food items at current exorbitant market prices. The Government should consider making available other food items like beans and cooking besides maize which is normally provided. 3.To urgently form a multi-stakeholder team to ascertain the extent of the present hunger and come up with recommendations on how to find a lasting solution. 4. To provide adequate veterinary services to livestock in the just beginning season to prevent livestock calf mortality as a measures to address dwindling livestock economy 5. In the medium and long term, to increase the number of local people who are employed in Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. The Government should also consider making mandatory for businesses operating in Ngorongoro Conservation Area to give priority in employment to local people with required qualifications. Income from employment will greatly boost household income and increase food security. 6. To consider allowing local communities to practice cultivation until such a time when a permanent solution to food security has been worked out. The Government should also consider finding/purchasing land outside NCA to be distributed amongst poor families for farming and hence affording an opportunity for local communities to diversify their livelihoods. 7. To undertake deliberate measures to make sure that the income accruing from Tourism is distributed equally amongst the three objectives for which the area was established for. In this connection, we urge Government to make sure that at least 30% of the income allocated to the Pastoral Council. 8. To undertake deliberate measures to make sure that the local community is sufficiently represented in different decision making bodies of Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, including senior Management and the Board of Directors. 9. That UNESCO and affiliated conservation organizations should immediately stop pressuring the Government of Tanzania to undertake measures which are counterproductive to the interests of local communities in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 10. To undertake deliberate measures to repeal and re-enact Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act, a draconian piece of legislation which denies local community an opportunity to co-manage the conservation area as well as getting equitable benefits from the income accrued from tourism. THE PRESS IS RELEASED BY PASTORALISTS CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS OF PINGOs FORUM, PWC, UCRT, MWEDO, CORDS, NYDA, NGONET, TAPHGO, PAICODEO, TPCF, LHRC AND ALAPA.