Sunday, January 30, 2011
Return to Tanzania
Since it looks like we broke the record for the most snow for the season last night (still snowing now) and the temperature is heading well below the zero mark for the next few days, I think that it is about time to return to Tanzania. But it looks the only way I am going to be able to do that is post about it here.
To recap, I was in Tanzania to train Village Game Scouts (VGS) how to conduct more rigorous natural resource monitoring as part of their regular duties conducting anti-poaching patrols at the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Enduimet WMA is located west of Mount Kilimanjaro along the border with Kenya.
I was part of a team working for the Department of Interior's Technical Assistance Program. There were ten of us on the team, divided into five teams of two, each team assisting with a different WMA. My partner at Enduimet was Janet, a botanist from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.
This is Eric, our driver.
We worked very closely with the Longido District Game Officer (DGO) Stephen (on the right), his local commander Charles (on the left), and Julius (middle), a representative for the African Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental agency partner in the management of the WMA.
When we arrived at Enduimet, we toured the VGS outposts in the WMA. These guys are amazing. They accomplish a lot with little resources. The shed in the back is where they cook and store their equipment. They sleep in small individual tents scattered around the outpost. The conduct anti-poaching patrols on foot from their outposts and spend four weeks at a stretch on duty.
Our training was conducted at the WMA headquarters in the village of Ol Malog. Each morning the scouts would go through their drills prior to the training.
We spent most of our time outside doing more practical instruction. Here Janet is teaching the scouts how to set up and run a habitat transect to measure vegetation.
We did spend some time inside the WMA headquartes in the village of Ol Malog. Here the scouts are going through the field guides we provided them, The Birds of East Africa and the Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals. I would recommend both guides for any trip to East Africa.
We also taught the scouts how to measure grass biomass using the pasture disk method.
Since there wasn't much wildlife near the village, we improvised and used the numerous cattle, sheep or goats as surrogates when we taught the scouts how to conduct wildlife transect surveys.
At the end of the training we had the scouts run their own transect as a practical test. The transect was run from one of the outposts and this time we had real African wildlife to use on the transect.
At the end of our training we had a ceremony with a number of dignitaries where the scouts received their certificates of completion. Here Obedi is reciting a speech where he expressed the scouts appreciation for being selected to receive the training as well as appreciation for the content of the training.
The primary management challenge at Enduimet is the heart of this type of conservation effort - how to integrate local people and villages into conservation efforts so that the people realize some gain from having wildlife on the landscape. It is a difficult challenge but necessary as more and more people inhabit areas that have traditionally not been heavily impacted by human land use and still have wildlife habitat and populations. More people exert pressure on local wildlife through direct conflict (where the wildlife usually loses) to more subtle, indirect impacts through habitat changes or loss. One example of indirect impacts to wildlife at Enduimet is the increase use of water for agriculture at the upper ends of the watercourses near the mountains. This limits the amount of water that makes it to the area where wildlife have traditionally been able to access the water and puts additional pressure on the remaining sources of water needed by both wildlife and domestic livestock. Competition for scarce water tends to increase the incidents of direct conflict with wildlife.
Grazing by domestic livestock is the primary land use in the WMA.
The transition from unlimited land use to a conservation focus that will realize income from wildlife and wild lands in addition to livestock grazing is an experiment that is progressing, but the hoped for results are still years away if the experiment succeeds. Traditions change slowly.
Another management challenge is unsustainable cutting of firewood in the WMA.
On the other end of the management challenge is improving the infrastructure so that income from tourism related to wildlife can be realized for the villages. Right now the roads in the WMA are not in the best shape. That, combined with the distance from the traditional wildlife tour circuit, currently limits the amount of tourism this area receives.