Tourism-driven evictions from state and privately managed protected areas in Eastern and Southern Africa

In Eastern and Southern Africa, the designation of wildlife reserves for photo safari and hunting tourism goes back to the establishment of colonial rule and has displaced thousands of local communities from customary land on which they relied for their livelihoods. Safari hunting was a favourite pastime for colonial administrators, and the period between 1900 and 1945 in East Africa has often been referred to as the ‘Era of Big Game Hunting’ (Akama, 2004). In South Africa, game reserves and national parks, such as the Kruger National Park, became “manifestations of ‘apartheid repression’” and part of “a process of alienating Africans from wildlife” (Carruthers, 1995, pp. 89—90), often associated with forced evictions of Indigenous communities.

Safari tourism and hunting concessions in Tanzania

Land grabbing and land conflicts have a long tradition in Tanzania and most often involve pastoralist groups. After Germany established colonial rule over what they called ‘German East Africa’ following the Berlin Conference of 1884—1885, Maasai pastoralists were evicted from their traditional grazing grounds in West Kilimanjaro onto barren plains, as the Germans grabbed the most productive land for the establishment of plantations and hunting concessions. When the British took over as colonial power during World War I, they occupied the fertile land in the temperate slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, hence the Maasai lost even more of their traditional grazing grounds (Porokwa, 2018). When colonial powers started to ponder over independence of their African colonies, European conservationists warned that Africans could not be trusted taking care of wildlife (Pearce, 2012). One of the strongest and most controversial messages came from German zoo director and animal conservationist Bernhard Grzimek in his influential book and film Serengeti Shall Not Die where he stated that “[a] National Park ... must remain a primordial wilderness to be effective. No men, not even native ones, should live inside its borders” (cited in Adams and McShane, 1992, p. xvi).

Following Tanzania’s independence, evictions continued under various governments (Ngoitiko et al., 2010). The dramatic landscape of Ngorongoro in Tanzania — roughly equally divided between the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area — is one of the world’s most famous conservation areas. Few visitors realise, however, that in the 1970s, evictions

A group of giraffes in a Tanzanian wildlife reserve

Figure 7.1 A group of giraffes in a Tanzanian wildlife reserve

A Maasai takes his livestock to a water hole

Figure 7.2 A Maasai takes his livestock to a water hole

from the Serengeti National Park pushed thousands of Maasai and their animals into the Ngorongoro Crater, where they were not allowed to graze their animals and from where many were subsequently evicted again (Mowforth and Munt, 2016). The famous crater has now become severely degraded, and UNESCO has threatened to remove its World Heritage status. In early 2010, the government responded by calling for the removal of the thousands of Maasai who live in the crater (Survival International, n.d.). In 2013, the then Tanzanian Minister of Tourism proclaimed the establishment of a 1,500km" ‘wildlife corridor’, ostensibly to allow wildlife to move freely between the Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya. This decision posed a severe threat to the livelihoods of several thousands of Maasai (Mowforth and Munt, 2016).

One of the most notorious conflicts between trophy hunting tourism and pastoralism has been going on for nearly 25 years in Loliondo, an area in proximity of the Serengeti National Park. In 1992 an investor from the United Arab Emirates obtained hunting rights over an area inhabited by several Maasai communities that had been in possession of documented land ownership rights (Benjaminsen et al., 2013; Masse and Lunstrum, 2016; for a brief discussion on trophy hunting, see Box 7.1). The Maasai strongly resisted the hunting concession and — to show their disapproval - signed contracts with private tourism companies that organised photo safaris for foreign tourists (Gardner, 2012).

Box 7.1 Should we kill wild animals to save them? The controversy around trophy hunting

Trophy hunting - the killing of large animals for their horns, tusks, skins or taxidermied bodies - has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa allow this form of extractive tourism, with varying degrees of transparency and accountability. Some countries have established quotas or created exclusions to reflect the status of vulnerable game populations. For instance, South Africa no longer allows the hunting of leopards, while Namibia banned the use of dogs for hunting leopards after numbers were falling drastically. Botswana declared a temporary ban on trophy hunting in government-controlled hunting areas in 2014. The Kenyan government has completely banned trophy hunting since 1977.

Proponents of trophy hunting argue that the industry makes significant contributions to the economy of a number of African countries and provide much-needed funds for conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Some African governments contend that people in other continents have no right to tell them how they should manage their own wildlife and likened any involvement by Western environmental activists to neocolonialism. Critics of the practice maintain that no country should be involved in the business of selling and profiting from dead wildlife and argue that most of the profits made from trophy hunting do not go back into conservation and antipoaching schemes but rather feed endemic corruption in host countries. They call for more financial contributions to wildlife protection from multi-lateral development banks, eco-philanthropists and NGOs.

Sources: Lindsey et al., 2012; Paterniti, 2017

The collaboration of the Maasai with private tour operators in Loliondo was a thorn in the side of the Tanzanian government for a long time. The government formally holds the ownership and control over the country’s wildlife, even if the land itself is controlled by communities through their village councils (Nelson and Blomley, 2010; Masse and Lunstrum, 2016). The conflict escalated in 2009 when the government evicted about 200 Maasai families from the area, burned their huts and killed thousands of livestock. The eviction — while being a gross violation of human rights law — was made legally possible by the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009, which prohibits grazing animals in so-called Game Controlled Areas (Benjaminsen and Bryceson, 2012). The Tanzanian government justified the forced relocation of the Maasai by the discourses of ‘national development’ and ‘protection of wildlife’ whose seasonal migration was deemed to be threatened by the pastoralist herds (Gardner, 2012). The violent relocation of the Maasai triggered national and international condemnation and risked damaging the Tanzanian government’s and the UAE-based investor’s reputation. Consequently, the actors involved tried to establish a more peaceful relationship with the Maasai and for several years, the conflict seemed to have abated.

Despite the short period of peace, in August 2017, Loliondo was in domestic and international headlines again, when the Ngorongoro District Commissioner issued an order to evict Maasai from their legally registered village lands in the so-called buffer zone of the Serengeti National Park. The eviction order was preceded by various statements of the then Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, who called for the alienation of at least 1,500km2 of Loliondo (about 40 per cent of the entire Loliondo area — roughly the size of London), which had been occupied by the Maasai community' for centuries. Authorities were given an ultimatum of five days for carrying out the order. The evictions affected about 350 Maasai families who saw their bonta (traditional houses) burnt to the ground and most of their property' destroyed, leaving them without shelter, food or water (Porokwa, 2018). In September 2017, the Loliondo Maasai filed a legal case at the East African Court of Justice against the Tanzanian government (IWGIA, 2019). Following pressure from civil society organisations and international advocacy groups, the Tanzanian government halted the evictions in November 2017, followed by a statement from the new Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism that they had been illegally designed, without following proper procedures. Yet, the future of the remaining Loliondo Maasai still hangs in the balance, and in late 2018 and early 2019, two Maasai human rights activists were repeatedly detained without bail for alleged sedition (IWGIA, 2019b).

Meanwhile, across Tanzania, the Ministry' of Natural Resources and Tourism has established about 20 wildlife management areas (WMAs) comprising around 30,000km” of land. This involved the technical and financial support of international donors, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the German Development Bank (KfW) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (Bluwstein et al., 2018). The basic idea behind the WMA initiative is that communal land is set aside across several neighbouring villages to support the movement of wildlife between protected areas. The WMAs include bans on farming and settlements, and such activities as livestock grazing, firewood collection and charcoal making are often heavily restricted. In return, villagers are promised benefits from safari tourism revenues by cooperating with tourism investors (Bluwstein et al., 2018).

While the WMA model adopts the language of‘participation’ and ‘communitybased conservation’ and appears to be a triple-win arrangement for (1) wildlife conservation, (2) new livelihood opportunities for local communities, and (3) tourism businesses, in many instances the implementation of WMAs has triggered conflicts over land ownership and village boundaries and led to dispossession and evictions (Benjaminsen and Bryceson, 2012). Female-headed households who depend most on communal land resources for firewood and non-timber forest products have proven to be particularly disadvantaged by WMA establishment (Bluwstein et al., 2018). Maasai pastoralists have also not benefitted from WMA establishment, as at least half of their household income is derived from livestock compared to conservation-related tourism which accounts for less than five per cent (Burgoyne and Mearns, 2017). In the early days of the WMA programme, villagers had been promised hunting quotas and local control over trophy hunting, but the hunting industry proved highly lucrative for the Tanzanian government and remained under firm state control (Benjaminsen and Bryceson, 2012). In September 2018, 18 huts of an Indigenous Barabaig pastoralist community were burnt to the ground to make way for a tourism company that operates a facility in the Burunge WMA (IWGIA, 2019b).

Recently, a silver lining has appeared in the form of a protest movement driven by over 800 pastoralist women who successfully lobbied the Tanzanian leadership to resolve the land rights violations of pastoralist communities (IWGIA, 2019a). In 2019, the Tanzanian President spoke for the first time publicly against the expropriation of pastoralists’ land in the name of wildlife conservation (IWGIA, 2019b).

 
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