Mkomazi Newsletter 1999: Outreach Program
We heard rumours in January 99 that the President of Tanzania had conducted his own internal investigation into the forced departure of Harrie and Truus Simons from the country had been conducted at the highest level and had concluded that this was merely a clash of personalities. We have not yet seen evidence of this conclusion in writing, and heard in March that Harrie and Truus, having re-established their lives in Holland, had decided not to return to Tanzania for many valid reasons, although they would visit regularly. This is a great loss to the people of Kisiwani, who made several trips to Dar es Salaam to press for an investigation, whilst Brigadier Mbita and our District Commissioner also pursued this matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
A judgement was reached on the pastoralist case against the Government of Tanzania for compensation and reinstatement of grazing permits in Mkomazi. David Anstey, the warden who gazetted the reserve in 1951, gave expert testimony on behalf of the Government. Sadly, he was brought in only once the case had reached the defense. The pastoralists were evidently disappointed with the result and took the judgement to the high court of appeal, where the number of plaintiffs to receive compensation was actually reduced. Now that the case is over, amicable relations have resumed with the leader of the Kisiwani pastoralist group and meetings have been scheduled over the next few months for assistance with their long-term development. This work formed part of the original aim of the outreach programme, but some of the pastoralists had left the programme, encouraged by overseas groups to pursue great financial claims by taking the Government of Tanzania to court.
The Masai Government Ward Secretary of Engassumet and Ruvu visited us in September and he and Tony held a meeting with this pastoralist leader on many relevant issues.
There is still an ongoing process to challenge and appraise the papers that were produced about Mkomazi, the Wildlife Division and even the Trust during this time. A lengthy task which Government is now taking more seriously, as the proliferation of unproved hypotheses quoted as fact, conjecture, deliberate bias and archival reference quoted to suit the bias has alerted Government to the swift passage of the information super-highway.
In September 99, the Honorable Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mrs. Zakia Meghji, officially opened the Kisiwani Secondary School. She was accompanied by Brigadier Mbita representing the Trust, the Regional Administrative Secretary, representatives from the Wildlife Division (including Matthew Maige and the new Project Manager Mr. Lusasi), the Ministry of Education, the District Commissioners, representatives from the District Council, the headmaster and teachers of the school, the village leaders and hundreds of villagers and the local police.
The construction (by Lucas Tarimo) of the main body of the school was financed in the majority by the Dutch Trust, in a joint cooperative effort with the District Council, the Ministry of Education, the Wildlife Division and the Kisiwani Ward. We were all pleased to be involved in the opening ceremony, most significantly together with our Minister as representatives from the world of wildlife preservation. Both the Minister and the Brigadier stressed the critical importance of secondary education, and mutual cooperation and friendship between those working in the game reserve and those living on the borders. One of the main themes of the Ministers speech was "animals or people - surely there is room for both". The Minister volunteered to hand back the draft management plan on Mkomazi Game Reserve to the village leaders for their further comments, owing to objections that have been raised over its contents.
The headmaster of the secondary school approached the Trust to fund the refitting of windows and burglar bars for one of the classrooms which is to be used as a computer room. He had received a donation of the computers from another organisation, and the Trust agreed to fund the security.
Mr. Lusasi, the new Mkomazi Game Reserve Project Manager, is now working down in the Umba area of the reserve and has agreed to help the Kivingo Secondary School in Lushoto District. This secondary school needs refurbishing and Mr. Lusasi and the Trust have agreed to supply cement and galvanised iron sheets.
The dam that the Trust has built at Kisima (with the help of the International School and Tanga Cement) has filled up. The concrete dam wall was constructed in order to flood small valley in between two existing wet season water sources. This water source supplies the rhino sanctuary personnel and rhino water pans, as well as base camp personnel. The dam has now held water for nearly two years and significantly also acts as an alternative water source for elephant and buffalo thereby eliminating their impact on the local communities agricultural developments and water sources on the southern border of Mkomazi Game Reserve. This elimination of conflict has had a positive feed back from the local people. The village elders have advised us that for the first time in 40 years, they have not had to contend with elephant and buffalo in their farms and water sources.
This will lead to similar projects being undertaken in the reserve to assist both the animals and the local people, as part of the community conservation policy of the Wildlife Division. We heard that US Fish and Wildlife may have agreed to fund desilting of other dams in the reserve to help the elephant populations and thereby relieve the pressure on the local people.
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