By Chris Lang
Over the past decade, Indigenous Maasai communities living in Ngorongoro District in Tanzania have faced a series of violent evictions. The government recently announced that more evictions are planned, under a proposal to divide the Ngorongoro Conservation Area into four zones.
In March 2018, the Oakland Institute published a report documenting how, over the past decade, hundreds of Maasai homes have been burned and tens of thousands of people evicted from their land.
These violent evictions are all in the name of conservation, elite tourism, and big game hunting.
90,000 livelihoods threatened
In a press release released this week about the government’s latest plans, the Oakland Institute writes:
The Management and Resettlement plan, scheduled to unfold over the next seven years, is the latest chapter in the country’s history stained with forced evictions of the Maasai from their ancestral lands – crucial to their very survival. The new plan threatens approximately 90,000 livelihoods with the creation of new restricted areas within the NCA, where the Maasai are denied access for housing, livestock grazing, and crop cultivation.
In March 2019, a joint monitoring mission was carried out by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The mission report noted “looming threats”, such as the
impact of developments (in particular road upgrade project, tourism developments, carrying capacity issues, invasive alien species (IAS), poaching, rampant migratory patterns of the local communities resulting in new developments (some with modern architecture)…
The mission team a series of recommendations for the Tanzanian government, including to “complete the Multiple Land Use Model review exercise and share the results with World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies to advise on the most appropriate land use model, including in the matter of settling local communities in protected areas”.
In response, the Oakland Institute notes, “the Tanzanian government produced the Four Zone Management and Resettlement Plan”.
The proposed Four Zone Management and Resettlement Plan
The proposed Four Zone Management and Resettlement Plan will create four zones: a conservation core zone; a conservation sub-zone; a settlement and development zone; and a transition zone.
The area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area would be increased from 8,100 square kilometres to 12,083 square kilometres. This increase would be achieved by incorporating the Loliondo and Lake Natron Game Controlled Areas into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
With this increased conservation area, the land available to the Maasai would be significantly reduced. The Maasai already face severe food insecurity as a result of existing restrictions on their livelihoods.
Under the new plan the Maasai would only be allowed to build homes on 18% of the total area of the conservation area – in the settlement and development zone. A Maasai elder told the Oakland Institute that,
“The land cited for development despite its size, does not have a single water stream and is not suitable for pastoralism. If this plan is to prevail, cows will perish in the NCA before 2038 and it will mark the end of the Maasai community in the famous world heritage site.”
A recent article in the RAI Newspaper quoted Freddy Manongi, the Chief Conservator of Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority is as saying that,
“There is a need to redistribute land as part of a strategy to overcome these challenges, and even if these communities are to be evacuated for a small compensation, our country is still large. There is enough land outside the reserve…
“I know it will not be an easy task, the noise will be great, but we will educate the public and especially the Indigenous communities of this Ngorongoro Valley region to know the benefits and that benefits of conservation are for all Tanzanians. I believe they will understand.”
Clearly, Manongi is not familiar with the concept of free, prior and informed consent.
The egregious role of UNESCO
The Oakland Institute describes UNESCO’s role in this latest threat to the Maasai as “egregious”. The UNESCO Commission called for the multiple land use model to be abandoned and recommended the removal of all people to create a Nature Reserve. The Maasai’s Bomas (thorn bush livestock including small huts for the Maasai) would be kept for “cultural tourism”.
UNESCO notes that, “relocation of Maasai will not be a new event in Tanzania”, as if that somehow makes future evictions more acceptable.
The Oakland Institute comments that,
This position from a UN agency whose mandate is “building peace in the minds of men and women,” demonstrates not only its blatant disregard for the historical wrongs inflicted upon the Maasai, but also for the internationally recognized rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A Maasai leader compares UNESCO and the government’s proposals with the injustices the Maasai faced under colonialism:
“UNESCO and the government of Tanzania’s plan is detrimental not only to the Maasai but also for the conservation of wildlife. Dividing the ecosystem doesn’t provide a long-term solution. It is a repeat of the myopic actions of the British colonial government, and our challenges have continued.”
The Oakland Institute argues that the proposal for creating four zones in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area “must be stopped” and “The colonization of Indigenous land in the name of conservation must end.”
PHOTO credit: Entrance to a new boma built by the displaced Maasai, the Oakland Institute.