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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April 2005, 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK
Anger over hunting rights
By Dan Dickinson
BBC News, Selous game reserve, central Tanzania

Scout taking aim
Villagers are allowed to eat the meat of animals they kill
Tanzanian villagers are unhappy about the loss of a lucrative hunting contract, which they had been given as a way of solving the perennial conflict between animals and farmers in rural Africa.

"We are angry, because this is our land and we don't have control over it any more," says Salum Mwiliki, scout from Ngarambe village.

"We're not happy about no longer being involved as we are no longer learning how to conserve the animals.'

The villagers of Ngarambe had been allowed to sell hunting licences and shoot animals for meat so they would no longer see wild animals as pests and help preserve overall animal numbers.

This area is rich in wildlife of all types - elephants, lions, giraffes, buffaloes and more.


As well as the physical threat posed by lions, a herd of elephants can quickly destroy a field of crops - as farmer Deo Themanini discovered.

Elephant: $4,000
Lion: $2,000
Kudu: $1,170
Buffalo: $600
"There were too many to chase them away. So they succeeded in trampling my maize crop. Almost the whole farm was destroyed by animals. There were just footprints everywhere," he said.

The area borders the Selous game reserve - one of Africa's largest protected areas and supports photographic and hunting tourism, which are both big money-earners for the Tanzanian government.

In the past people living around the reserve have complained they have not benefited but that is slowly changing with the establishment of wildlife areas outside the reserve which are managed by local communities.

A hungry elephant can wreak havoc on a field of maize
Selling hunting permits is big business - trophy fees in the 2004 season ranged cost $4,000 for an elephant, $2,000 for a lion to $600 for a buffalo.

While villagers only get a proportion of these fees, Ngarambe has used some of the money it has earned to buy a generator which brought electricity to the village for the first time.

The school has been refurbished and new health facilities built.

"A lot of people are coming from other parts of the district to live here. They see that our villagers have more money and more facilities," says village committee member Salum Njao.

"Other villages are also pleading with us the join the project and others are asking for assistance in setting their own one up."


In return for mounting anti-poaching patrols, they are allowed to shoot game for meat.

The meat from animals hunted by the scouts is divided amongst the community and because poachers are being kept away by the patrols, the stock of animals remains high.

But Ngarambe has become a victim of its own success.

The government has said that the community can no longer hunt on this land or sell hunting licences to residents - instead a five-year hunting licence has been sold to a private company.

David Kaggi from GTZ, the German Technical cooperation agency which set up the project, says the wildlife belongs to the people.

"These people are living with the wildlife here. The only thing is to make sure they can use the wildlife. Give them power. Let them hunt themselves. Let them share their own meat."

But the hunting lobby in Tanzania is extremely powerful because the industry is so lucrative.

According to Abdukadir Luta Mohammed, secretary general of the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association, animals are not owned exclusively by the community.

"The wildlife does not only belong to the community around the animals. The animals belong to the nation, belong to everybody. [They] are there under the trust of the president of the united republic."

'Wrong message'

Tanzania's wildlife policy states that power should be devolved to the people but it is the government which ultimately decides how land should be used.

Villager switching on a light
Ngarambe now has electricity for the first time
The district of Rufiji, the administrative region which Ngarambe falls under, is left picking up the pieces.

District Executive Director Serene Augustine Chidumizi admits taking power from the community goes against the spirit of the legislation but says the villagers will be allowed to make money from local animals in five years' time.

"I agree, it is the wrong message. I know there is a conflict, but I am sure the conflict will end after a short time. The contract is going to be accomplished and then the whole area will be left free for the community."

Although the people of Ngarambe are unhappy with the way things have gone, for now they can at least console themselves with the progress that has been made so far - the health officers' houses, the electricity supply and the school of happy pupils.

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