Serengeti tree (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).
‘In the great plains of northern Tanzania, close to the world-famous Serengeti National Park, a bitter row has broken out over an attempt to designate 1,500sqkm of Loliondo District as a game-controlled area.
‘The Maasai herdsmen in the area say their cattle cannot survive without access to traditional dry-season grazing in the area. The government says the land is needed as a wildlife corridor between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Besides, the Minister for Natural Resources told the press, 2,500sqkm had already been, as he put it, “released to the local population”; the rest would be used for conservation purposes for the benefit of the nation.
‘Typical of recent land-grab controversies, this row involves the use of rangelands rather than farmlands. While farmers can show quite clearly that their lands are being used, semi-arid grasslands in areas like Loliondo cannot support animals year-round, so surveys often show the areas lying apparently empty.
‘Such tracts of land are often attractive for commercial agriculture — in Ethiopia, for instance, a number of controversial large-scale agricultural concessions have been granted along the Awash River. But the Loliondo dispute is not about commercial agriculture; it’s a so-called “green grab”, where access to land is lost for conservation purposes. . . .
‘Here, one widely accepted good — the right of people to continue using their traditional lands — has collided with another — the need to conserve nature and biodiversity. . . .
‘Kenya’s new constitution, adopted in 2010 . . . offers what is to be called “community land” to any group formed on the basis of ethnicity, culture or shared interest.
Stephen Moiko, of the International Livestock Research Institute, told IRIN that a key difference this time is that the initiative will come from the group. “It’s possible for communities to come up together and, through a legal process, obtain ownership of key resources which they depend on for their livelihoods, and it has legal mechanisms to protect that land from alienation. I think the nice thing about this new provision is that it recognizes the role of communities as owners and protectors and users of local resources.”. . .’
Read the whole article at IRIN: Balancing conservation and people’s access to land, 4 Apr 2013.