Bleak future for Loliondo Maasai on advent of UAE hunting company
THE livelihoods of members of the Maasai pastoral community within the Loliondo Game controlled area in Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region has of late become threatened by the antics of a certain foreign hunting company operating in the area, Ortello Business Corporation (OBC). Locals say the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-registered company is behind a recent sequence of events where hundreds of Maasai kraals (bomas) were set ablaze in order to protect OBC’s hunting operations, and the Maasai forcibly evicted. An on-the-spot survey showed at least three Field Force Unit (FFU) officers on guard at one of the OBC camp stations, two of them driving in a Nissan Patrol vehicle with private registration number T 179 AGX. Speaking during interviews with journalists and activists under the FemAct coalition, the villagers said they have been forced out of the villages they have lived in for years, into bone-dry areas with hardly any water or pasture for their livestock. ?We are now living in extreme poverty and not sure of our future, since we solely depend on livestock for our survival?It is just a matter of time before our cattle all die due to lack of water and grazing areas,? said Ephraim Kaura, an elder from Ololosokwan Village. The villagers from Ololosokwan, Olarien Magaidur, Soit Sambu, Ngirgir, Arash, Maaloni and Karkarrmoru Villages are seeking government intervention to come to their rescue and their livestock. However, Ngorongoro District Commissioner Elias Wawi Lali justified the eviction exercise, arguing that the villagers have been destroying the environment and carrying out farming activities along the wildlife migratory corridor - thus threatening the continued existence of wild beasts. Lali charged further that at the centre of controversy is a shortcoming in the laws governing the area. According to the DC: ?In 1959, Loliondo was declared a game-controlled area while Ngorongoro was declared a conservation area. Loliondo was allocated 41 per cent while Ngorongoro was allocated 59 per cent of the total land in the district. ?This meant that the land in Ngorongoro District is for wildlife purposes. But again in 1983, the villages within the district were also registered legally?which is the centre of the problem. ?The villages were registered while at the same time the law that declared Ngorongoro and Loliondo as conservation and controlled game areas respectively had not been amended or annulled.? The irony, however, is that even the DC’s own office and other government structures are situated within the game-controlled area, meaning that they could also be demolished at any time should the OBC deem it convenient. Speaking to THISDAY in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Shamsha Mwangunga, said she will visit the area in the near future to assess the situation. ?I usually get varying views from the wananchi, government officials, and non-governmental organizations in the area?I will go to see for myself what is going on, so that we can come up with an amicable solution,? said the minister. According to the villagers, large groups of Arab royals and high-flying businessmen spend weeks in Loliondo each year, hunting antelopes, lions, leopards, and other wild animals. The commander of the eviction operation, Acting Inspector of Police Isaac Manoni, denied claims that members of the FFU raped a local woman during the exercise, but admitted that the force deployed to handle the operation had no female officer on board. ?We did not have any female officers during the operation, simply because we never expected a confrontation with the villagers,? Manoni said. On her part, Loliondo local councillor (Special Seats) Tina Timan said the eviction operation ?disturbed us very much psychologically.? She said the local community has looked after the wild animals and the surrounding environment for decades, and ?it is not true that the villagers have encroached the game controlled area.? Tina called on the government to consider the plight of the Maasai pastoralists, saying the area from which they have been evicted is the only one with grazing land and water to feed their livestock ?particularly at this time when the whole district is faced with drought.? ?No one talks of killing the wild animals, but rather environment degradation. We should also be left to benefit from the wildlife which we have taken care of for years,? lamented the councillor. An OBC official, said by locals to be the camp manager at one of the company’s sites in the area, declined to either identify himself or clarify on the issues brought up by the locals.