Exploring Conservation Issues in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem

Posted: October 22, 2012

Name: John Mwamhanga, M.S.
Position: Lecturer in Environmental Policy & Socioeconomic Values
Program: Wildlife  Management Studies, Tanzania

The past few weeks have been a busy phase of traveling lectures and field visits involving students, faculty, and program assistants and aimed at exposing students and increasing their knowledge through firsthand experience in various sociocultural and conservation issues within the Tarangire Manyara Ecosystem. Traveling lectures covered the area from the Moyo Hill Camp to the town of Mto wa Mbu where students learned about irrigation water management schemes, and its challenges and practical solutions. Later, under the baobab tree, faculty and students discussed the opportunities and challenges facing Lake Manyara National Park and the surrounding Biosphere Reserve.

In addition to traveling lectures, students partook in visiting local villages in the Karatu area to experience environmental conservation initiatives being led by local communities. Our visits to community members around the Karatu villages were led by our host Mr. Mruma, the Karatu District Forest and Environmental Officer.  Mr. Mruma began by briefing the students on the causes and impacts of environmental degradation in the district and strategies used by the district to ameliorate environmental issues. Following the brief lecture, students visited Bashay Primary School as an example of a community putting environmental education into practice through a comprehensive environmental learning centre at the school. At the centre, school children, village leaders, and local community members are being trained in the value and practicality of environmental conservation and tree planting. The centre has a tree nursery, which sells seedlings to local communities at a subsidized cost to promote reafforestation efforts in the area. At Bashay Primary, students also visited the school’s  planted forest, and fruit and vegetable gardening project where they saw the benefits of drip irrigation.

On the same traveling lecture, students also had an opportunity to visit Mama Grace’s house to learn about bio gas as an alternative source of energy to wood fuel. Mama Grace (a local Iraqw woman) explained that since her family installed the bio gas plant, which she is using for cooking and to provide light, she is no longer suffering problems with her eyes from the burning of firewood for cooking.  Additionally, since she does not have to spend hours each day trekking the 7 kilometres to collect firewood, she now has much more time for  other economic activities and as such has a better standard of living than in the past

At the end of this visit when discussing the worthiness of this traveling lecture, students commented that “you can’t get this experience back at home! It truly is hands on!!”

The visit to Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area as a multiple land use conservation area exposed students to one of the models of a land and resource tenure regime in Tanzania. Being there, it was possible to learn how wildlife, livestock, and local Maasai people co-exist with minimum resource use conflicts. In the Crater students witnessed a lone female lion hunting wildebeest. She chased a group of hundreds of wildebeest until she exhausted herself without killing even a young wildebeest.  This reminded students that for lions to survive as a species, they should maximize hunting success which is more likely achieved through living and hunting in  prides.

Overall, for students and faculty alike it has been a busy but fruitful period of learning and sharing.