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New farming developments threatens wildlife in the Kilombero Valley

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 25 Mar 2010

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The Kilombero Valley is home to a high density of large mammals, and holds one of the largest populations of the puku antelope (Kobus vardoni), one of only two populations in Tanzania. It is also widely recognised as one of the most fertile areas in Tanzania and as a result, its conversion to agriculture promoted by the government has been widespread and rapid. This is very worrying as increased human settlement is putting considerable pressure not just on the floodplain itself, but also on the miombo woodland that borders it. Human population growth is rapidly eroding wildlife habitat and the conflict between rural livelihoods and preserving the regions biodiversity is imminent.

In the last phase the TZS team have been busy conducted a social study, interviewing local farmers to gain a better understanding of the population’s values and conflicts with natural resources and wildlife in the region. This is essential for developing appropriate and realistic management plans that can provide a sustainable land use balance.

The study provided us with some interesting as well as ominous results. The study showed there has been a very high immigration rate; 75% of the villagers interviewed had immigrated, over half within the last year. A large proportion of the immigrants stated farming to be the main motivation for moving, and a lot of farmers have plans for expanding their farms, suggesting we may have only scratched the surface of this issue. The study also uncovered concerns with the land allocation procedure, leading to farmers setting up farms that exceed the allocated size, and sometimes in areas designated as forest, or on other villages land.

In addition, the TZS team found that only 20% of those who’ve lived in the area for less than a year were knowledgeable of any land management plans. This indicates that village councils need to make a greater effort to educate new comers; education on land management plans should be incorporated into the process of acquiring a farm.

If a successful long term management strategy is to be put in place, it must be centred on an incentive for the local people, that is to say on the protection of their own natural resources, such as fire wood and timber. These resources are indeed essential for daily household use and are collected from the miombo woodland. If, through education and workshops, a positive association between conserving the land and increased sustainable natural resources could be established, the local villages may be more receptive to an essential management strategy.

Andrew Bamford and Hannah Burton

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