The Globalization of Maasailand
Wildlife and Land Reform: Collectivization or Privatization?
The WMA Regulations of 2002 were supposed to help reconcile conflicts between Tanzanian communities and the central government by legally empowering villages collectively to manage the conservation activities on their land. With years of experience working with foreign-owned tourist companies and abundant wildlife habitat including dispersal areas for Serengeti National Park, Loliondo seemed the perfect location for a model WMA. For over five years, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), with funding from the USAID and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), promoted the WMA with village leaders and local youth, who, they argued, would benefit from the new opportunities to increase safari tourism on their land and reap multiple benefits including employment opportunities for their residents. They sponsored workshops and study tours to promote the project. Leaders were given daily stipends of approximately fifty dollars, the equivalent of the average monthly salary for a Tanzanian citizen. They were shown successful projects in both Tanzania and Kenya and told that they too could become rich through conservation.1
While the WMA enjoyed some local support among leaders in Loliondo, the majority of leaders and residents associated the WMA with a government scheme to take their land. As far back as January 2001, six village chairmen and three ward councilors from Loliondo sent a letter to the director of wildlife requesting that all government efforts to demarcate and establish a WMA on their village lands cease immediately.2 This was an uncertain time for rural citizens of Tanzania as the new land legislation was taking effect in that year, 2001. The new land acts divided land into three categories: general land, reserved land, and village land. General land was a new legal category describing public lands including “unoccupied or unused village land.”3 Loliondo leaders were concerned that the new land acts would be used against pastoralists to argue that they were not efficiently using their land and hence justify state seizure of pastoral village land and resources. Village governments were uncertain if this ambiguity meant that they must reestablish village boundaries to demonstrate ownership, regardless of previous land titles or certificates.4
Since WMAs are established on village land that is set aside explicitly for the purposes of conservation, demarcating a WMA may guarantee local authorities secure rights over the area. However, many Loliondo leaders believed that creating a WMA could weaken their claim that land managed for both conservation and livestock remains village land. As opposition to the WMA grew in Loliondo, supporters of the WMA began to promote it as the only way for pastoralist communities to retain their land rights under the new land legislation. They argued that resisting the reform would lead the government to designate the entire area as general land, which would make it vulnerable to being auctioned off to foreign investors. Pastoralist rights organizations did their best to debunk this as deceptive politics and to assure communities that they could challenge the government’s claim to their resources by drawing on the new land acts. Pastoralist rights NGOs contended that accepting the WMA would make it harder to assert local claims to land. These NGOs helped villages build the argument that the Land Act of 1999 and the Village Land Acts of 1999 provided villages with “statutory rights” over land, even if the central government retained authority over wildlife. Village leaders used this to argue that they could legally lease their land to tourism investors who were not directly “consuming” or interfering with wildlife.
What we now know as community conservation became key to the Tanzanian state’s policy toward wildlife management and safari tourism in the late 1980s. Moving away from earlier conservation strategies to exclude pastoralists, community conservation initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s sought to incorporate pastoralists and other rural communities into their projects. They did this by using tourism as the driving incentive for communities to accept conservation as an economic activity. Dan Brockington argues that such tourism revenue was promoted as the best way for conservation to “pay its own way.”5
Many of Tanzania’s conservation areas were in semiarid savannah grassland ecosystems that supported both wildlife and livestock populations. The new projects were established as community-based conservation (CBC) projects in the hope that both pastoralists and conservationists would recognize their common interest in preserving the rangelands. The sponsors of these projects promoted CBC as a way to unite the pastoralists and conservationists against the encroachment of “degrading” land uses, in this case large-scale agriculture, which threatened both pastoralism and the conservation of wildlife habitat. CBC was largely born out of the idea that rural communities and conservationists shared certain interests in preserving specific landscapes that were also valuable in a globally commoditized tourism industry. Many policy initiatives try to build new coalitions by posing their objectives as a win-win scenario for multiple groups. The success of CBC in Tanzania was always tenuous because the different participating groups had conflicting agendas and goals alongside their shared interests.6 CBC proponents believed that economic benefits from tourism would supersede and remake all other interests and transform groups skeptical of conservation into productive environmental subjects. Building a broad and deep coalition in support of CBC was difficult for many reasons, not least of which were the range of actors who had differing ideas of the meaning of conservation.
Tanzania was not alone in experiencing problems achieving this wishful win-win scenario; such tensions have steadily played themselves out across the globe, and CBC has fallen out of favor with many groups who initially promoted the idea.7 Yet in Tanzania several groups in the conservation community, especially ecotourism safari companies, hoped that this idea could serve as a platform for their interests in the short term and perhaps create new openings and alliances in the longer term. Some of the larger conservation organizations in East Africa, such as the AWF, the FZS, and the WWF, which were most closely associated with command-and-control approaches to conservation, began CBC projects in the 1990s.8 Although none of these organizations gave up on their core conservation efforts that depended on excluding pastoralists and other rural producers from protected areas, they did experiment with CBC by engaging community groups in wildlife management and use on their village lands. This approach had several potential benefits for the conservation organizations including gaining access to community lands that were previously the domain of the Wildlife Division (WD), which managed the areas exclusively for hunting. CBC offered the prospect of replacing hunting-safari tourism with photographic-safari tourism, which was much preferred by most of the mainstream conservation groups. Although hunting and conservation are not mutually exclusive, organizations like the AWF, the FZS, and the WWF were deeply committed to the existing system of protected areas and saw CBC as a way to expand buffer zones around national parks free from hunting.
Poaching significantly increased throughout the 1980s, and antipoaching efforts were costly and mostly ineffective.9 In 1989 the government sponsored the violent Operation Uhai, an unparalleled effort led by the WD to send military and police officers into rural areas to stop poaching. The program, meaning “Operation Life,” lasted two years and essentially treated every rural Tanzanian as a poacher.10 While villagers were arrested, harassed, and killed over the two-year period (1989–91), the often well-connected and influential actors behind the poaching activities and their lucrative markets were rarely charged or implicated.11 Under the leadership of the country’s second president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Operation Uhai reiterated the centrality of wildlife management to national sovereignty and development and also signaled heightened conflict between rural livelihoods and a national conservation agenda.12 In an attempt to reestablish some trust with villagers, the Tanzanian government approached the German development agency Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in 1990 and asked it to help establish a community-based wildlife management project with villages around the Selous Game Reserve. The Selous Conservation Program was one of the first efforts to involve villagers in wildlife management in Tanzania. The village wildlife management initiative in the villages surrounding the Selous Game Reserve became an initial model of community conservation in the country.13
Increased poaching was not the only threat to wildlife conservation in Tanzania. The high costs associated with the popular “fences and fines” approach to national park management were also becoming prohibitive, especially in light of structural adjustment policies (SAPs) that cut state budgets across the board.14 Despite the large amount of land dedicated to conservation in Tanzania, important wildlife habitat extended beyond the boundaries of national parks and protected areas: 70 percent of wildlife populations depended on some habitat outside core protected areas.15 Because of these factors, conservationists turned their attention to protecting wildlife habitat outside national parks. Specifically they focused on preventing the conversion of rangelands suitable for both livestock and wildlife to farmland. With the realization that much of the critical wildlife habitat was in existing savannah ecosystems outside protected areas, many conservationists turned to pastoralists as partners. Although many pastoralists also farmed, protecting rangelands was often their top priority.16
Tanzania’s oversight of wildlife conservation activities is divided between the TANAPA and the NCA, which are responsible for national parks and conservation areas, and the WD, which is responsible for wildlife management in game reserves, game controlled areas (GCAs), and open areas (OAs). The main difference between GCAs and OAs is that hunting by Tanzanian residents is illegal in GCAs and legal in OAs. The WD’s primary function is to regulate the country’s resident hunting and trophy-hunting industry in over 140 designated hunting blocks, the majority of which are located adjacent to national parks and conservation areas. Because of this jurisdictional legacy, the WD became the primary government agency responsible for implementing the WMA policy reform, with its focus on wildlife tourism and trophy hunting on village lands.
Development advocates, including human rights groups, proposed CBC, and mainstream conservation organizations often joined the policy process only after it had gained significant support and momentum. It was hard for these groups to completely oppose or ignore what was being described as a new, “friendlier” approach to conservation. It was meant to address the crisis in the popular “fences and fines” approach to conservation, which was too costly and antagonistic to local people, by involving rural communities in conservation planning and management and to share benefits more equitably (see chapter 1).17 CBC advocates argued that making ecological and financial benefits more tangible to rural communities would change their attitudes and influence their values in favor of conservation. By the early to middle 1990s, the idea of involving local communities in both conservation management and benefit sharing was becoming widely accepted by some donors, policy makers, and conservation organizations.18
These projects were often met with skepticism and have had mixed results. The reluctance of these groups and other high-profile international conservation organizations to abandon their close relations with and substantial support of state agencies that promote more traditional forms of exclusionary conservation has posed a major challenge to their legitimacy in the eyes of communities.19
In March 2004, I attended and observed a workshop at the Ngorongoro District headquarters in Loliondo.20 The district executive director sent letters requesting that all village and district leaders, CBOs, and conservation NGOs working in the area attend the meeting to learn more about the proposed establishment of a WMA in Loliondo. WMAs were Tanzania’s official policy approach to CBC. Sixteen areas across the country with large and valuable wildlife populations suitable for safari tourism and trophy hunting were chosen to establish the new “community-based protected areas.” Almost half of these were in pastoralist areas. In exchange for setting aside part of their village lands for wildlife habitat, the government would transfer to local institutions some management authority and the ability to collect revenue from tourism and hunting-related investments.
By 2004 communities throughout Tanzania had been experimenting with a variety of CBC-type approaches, including village-based tourism joint ventures, for over a decade. However, with the creation of the WMA the state declared only one sanctioned CBC pathway and policy to involve local communities in wildlife management and safari tourism.21 The WD was the department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) responsible for managing wildlife outside national parks. Up until this time, the WD’s primary focus had been regulation of the lucrative trophy-hunting industry. The WD’s interactions with community groups and leaders were minimal, and it had developed a reputation as one of the government agencies that was most antagonistic toward rural communities. Having total legal domain over all wildlife in the country often led to the impression that the WD ruled these lands completely. Rural communities were rarely consulted about safari hunting that took place on their lands, and many of them came to resent the WD. As the agency chosen to oversee wildlife management on village lands, the WD was now the central government body responsible for implementing the new WMA policy. Many of the people involved in the early stages of CBC in Tanzania described to me the resistance of the WD to take on such a role, which it too considered outside its mandate and core mission. Eventually, with significant support from the German GTZ, the WD agreed to assume this new role. With its own history and bureaucratic culture, the WD’s management style shaped the implementation of the WMA policy. One of the effects of this style was to apply a one-size-fits-all process regardless of the specific ecological or social dynamics in different places proposed to pilot the WMA process.
To comply with the mandate, the WD established sixteen pilot WMAs throughout the country. The meeting that day was to discuss the new WMA guidelines and regulations, educate the community about the new policy, and lead a planning exercise to establish a WMA in Loliondo.22 Once a WMA had been identified by consultants and approved by the WD, no one thought to ask the designated communities if they wanted to participate in this new pilot project. Because WMA’s were the country’s new policy, the WD assumed that any community interested in participating in tourism in any way would simply embrace the opportunity to create a WMA. It organized a series of meetings, seminars, and workshops to educate communities on how to participate in the new policy.
Despite the new rhetoric of a friendlier approach to conservation, many people familiar with CBC reforms in Tanzania, including a large number of the people attending the meetings in Loliondo that day, did not believe that the WD officials were willing to entrust significant authority over wildlife use and management to local people. A provision in the WMA guidelines giving the director of wildlife final authority over all decisions concerning WMAs did not instill confidence in many Maasai people I interviewed, who were already skeptical of the WD and other state wildlife authorities (see chapter 2). It was only after years of pressure by international donors like the USAID and international NGOs such as the WWF that the WD had reluctantly accepted its new charge to include local representation in managing wildlife on village lands.23 The skepticism of many in Loliondo notwithstanding, the WMAs did offer for the first time a mechanism for the central government to authorize local communities to participate directly in wildlife management and to benefit from its utilization.
To establish a WMA, villages need to follow the elaborate procedures laid out by the WD. After being “sensitized on the importance and cost benefits of conserving wildlife resources,” villages are told to identify “an area fit to be designated as a WMA.” In most cases this means pooling village land together with other villages. If all the adjacent villages agree to participate, they begin an eleven-step process to register a new CBO to be able to legally participate in managing tourism and hunting activities on their land. To establish a CBO, representatives from each participating village must draft a constitution and develop a strategic plan. At each step, the CBO should seek the endorsement of all the participating villages. The CBO must then prepare a land-use plan recommending to the participating villages “land to be set-aside as communal village land for the purpose of establishing a WMA.” The CBO then creates a “general management plan” for the WMA.
Once these steps are complete and approved by the WD, the CBO applies to the director of wildlife to become an “authorized association” (AA), capable of managing the WMA. The application should include the following:
• Minutes of the Village Assembly meeting that approved the formation of the WMA;
• A completed Wildlife Management Area Data Sheet in the format provided for in the Second Schedule to the Regulations;
• A certified copy of the CBO’s Certificate of Registration;
• A copy of the CBOs Constitution;
• A Land Use Plan approved by the respective Village Assembly(ies);
• A sketch map of the proposed WMA in relation to the Village Land Use Plan(s);
• Boundary description of the proposed WMA, its name and size;
• A copy of the General Management Plan or a Resource Management Zone Plan.24
If the director of wildlife approves the CBO’s application, the director will grant it status as an AA, which enables it to apply for “User Rights” to be able to “enter into an investment agreement with investors for the purpose of utilizing wildlife resources in the WMA.” Although “the primary beneficiary of the WMAs shall be the villager in the village(s) forming the Authorized Association,” revenue from all contracts is divided 35 percent for the WD and 65 percent for the AA representing the WMA.25 The AA’s revenues are further divided in half, with 50 percent going directly to member villages and 50 percent being reinvested in WMA administrative costs and conservation activities such as hiring village game scouts.26 Loliondo was one of the few areas in the country that had already attracted significant tourism investment without much state oversight. For the architects and supporters of the WMA policy, government involvement was necessary to protect the interests and rights of all Tanzanian citizens, as well as to ensure a fair system for tourism and hunting investors. In 2002 the WMA policy seemed like a late addition to the ongoing experiment with CBC in Tanzania. For example, villages in Loliondo had been working directly with tourism companies for over a decade, and accepting the WD’s new management style and oversight was not a very welcome prospect.
A Singular Approach to Community-Based Conservation
At the Wildlife Management Areas meeting in 2004, the WD representatives told the mostly Maasai audience that, together with district officials including the district natural resources officer and the district game officer, they would use their expertise to advise communities on how best to use their village land for conservation and wildlife management. They would also help villagers negotiate agreements with tourism and trophy-hunting investors who would lease rights to land and wildlife within the WMA. One of the WD speakers at the meeting depicted his agency’s new role as that of a benefactor looking out for the interests of the villagers, who, he asserted, were “certain to be swindled without [the WD’s] protection.”27 With the WMA as the only legal mechanism for communities to participate in wildlife management, WD officials believed that Loliondo residents would appreciatively embrace the new opportunities presented to them, as they claimed most of the communities in the other sixteen designated pilot WMAs had.
Had WD officials paid more attention to the actions and words of Loliondo leaders over the previous several years, dating to the release of the new Wildlife Policy of 1998, in which the framework for WMAs was first proposed, they should not have been surprised to encounter a skeptical audience. As described in chapter 6, by 2004 five of the seven rural villages bordering Serengeti National Park had formed joint-venture tourism agreements with private safari ecotourism operators. Villages in Loliondo had already been overseeing tourism on their village lands and earning between ten thousand and sixty thousand dollars annually without directly partnering with, ceding control over their land to, or directly sharing revenue with the central government. They had attracted investors and negotiated contracts without the help of state officials. While not perfect, the village-based joint ventures had succeeded in generating enthusiasm for the broader CBC goals by showing that conservation could pay its own way.28
One of the WD facilitators challenged this alternative view of CBC in Loliondo head on, declaring that the “villagers were being taken advantage of [by private tour operators].” Speaking into a microphone, he stated, “The private companies bring many tourists and give the village chairman a little something in exchange.” Coercion and bribery were not infrequent in foreign investment schemes or development projects. However, as one of the elected village representatives I was sitting next to explained to me, nor were they the exclusive domain of the private sector. “I prefer to take my chances with a tourism company over a WD official,” he whispered and then grinned.
When the Maasai villagers in attendance were finally given a chance to speak, they asked several questions about the WMA. They inquired about the lack of clarity over revenue sharing, whether the director of wildlife had ultimate authority over all management decisions, and why a single village could not apply to become a WMA by itself. It quickly became apparent to the WD and district officials that this meeting to establish a WMA in Loliondo was not going as planned. After the question period was abruptly ended, another WD representative took a more forceful approach. Shifting from promoting the virtues of community involvement in wildlife management, the official made clear that refusing the WMA was not an option. If villagers wanted any say in managing tourism on their lands, then establishing a WMA was their only choice. Standing on the makeshift stage in the conference room at the district headquarters in his brown suit and silver tie, the official stressed his agency’s authority.
We hear there are so many tourist camps [in Loliondo], and they pay directly to the villages. Right? Yes. These are all against the law. Wildlife is all state property. Natural resources are all state property. These contracts that you all have are illegal. The only person who can license tourist activities is the minister [of natural resources and tourism]. . . . We have taken many [of the companies] to court. So you will decide if you want game controlled areas [the current system] or wildlife management areas [the newly proposed system].
The threat was the latest in a series of declarations by the WD that the existing tourism projects in Loliondo, in which ecotourism investors signed contracts directly with villages, were illegal.29 Despite the WDs assertion that there was no choice in the matter, Loliondo leaders attending the meeting clearly believed that there were other possible paths to fulfill the promises of CBC.
This meeting was one of dozens between national officials and Loliondo leaders between 2000 and 2011. It is just one of many encounters in which different actors articulated their interests in a particular vision of CBC. Rather than a coherent set of policies, CBC, like other economic and political reforms, came to Tanzania as a mix of promises and goals. Different actors inserted themselves in the process to influence the outcomes. These actors included the Tanzanian state and in particular the government agency responsible for implementing CBC, the WD; conservation NGOs; civil-society groups; private companies; and finally the rural Tanzanians whose livelihoods, landscapes, and interests were the object of these interventions.
In this chapter, I describe how these different actors interacted with the changing policy landscape and attempted to influence the meanings and possibilities of CBC in Tanzania. I do not advocate for or against the WMA. Rather I want to show how the WMA represented a particular CBC intervention and why communities in Loliondo saw the WMA largely as a continuation of colonial and nationalist conservation policies. I cannot evaluate whether WMAs are a good-faith effort to involve communities in conservation. Instead, I want to situate the WMA policy in a broader historical and geographical context. This chapter situates the history of CBC efforts in Loliondo, illustrating the emerging context for safari tourism and hunting on village lands, and the way that Maasai villagers experienced the contradictions of decentralization, community participation, and neoliberal conservation. The policy and political context of wildlife management in Loliondo informs the three ethnographic chapters that follow.
The Crisis of National Game
Along with mining and agriculture, tourism is one of Tanzania’s three leading economic activities.30 According to the Tanzania Tourism Sector Survey, Tanzania earned approximately $1.3 billion, or 33 percent of its GDP, from tourism activities in 2008. This was an increase from 1995, when the country earned $740 million, or 16 percent of its GDP from tourism. The majority of Tanzania’s 770,000 visitors come for “leisure and holidays.” Although Zanzibar is a popular beach destination, wildlife in general and visits to national parks and the NCA in particular form the cornerstone of the tourism industry in Tanzania.31 Emphasizing nonconsumptive photographic tourism within national parks and the NCA and trophy hunting in game reserves and game controlled areas, Tanzania’s central government has developed a highly regulated industry centered on the country’s world-famous wildlife populations and natural landscapes.
The growth of Tanzania’s tourist economy since independence in 1961 has coincided with the expansion of the country’s network of national parks and the NCA. Tanzania is known for its commitment to conservation, with almost 40 percent of the country’s land dedicated to some form of protected status, approximately 14 percent as national parks and conservation areas.32 Tanzania’s extensive network of protected areas and its large bureaucratic infrastructure reinforce the importance of wildlife and their habitats for the country’s economic prosperity. The WMA policy to increase conservation and tourism on village lands was one of several initiatives to promote and expand wildlife-based tourism.
In one of political ecology’s landmark texts, Rod Neumann (1998) documents the important role of Western ideas, colonial policies, and the government’s desire to be recognized as a modern nation-state in the emerging postcolonial order, to establish the significance of conservation for Tanzania’s economic and political stability. Despite the newly independent government’s socialist critique of many colonial policies and programs, it not only embraced conservation as a strategy; it also promoted it aggressively. Before independence the Serengeti was the country’s only national park. From independence in 1961 to 1992, the state created fourteen national parks.33
Although the first independent government of Tanzania replaced the Fauna Conservation Ordinance of 1951 with the Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA) of 1974, it largely reproduced colonial ideas valuing wildlife as a national commodity over its value as a local livelihood resource. If anything, the WCA of 1974 made it even clearer that wildlife was a national resource and that local rights to resources that had been largely criminalized under colonial policies would remain in place.34 The WCA of 1974 coincided with Tanzania’s radical rural development program known as villagization (described in chapter 2).
Hunting was illegal in national parks and the NCA but allowed in the country’s game reserves. Game reserves were a category of land under central government control and managed by the Wildlife Division primarily for trophy hunting. Tanzanians were forbidden to live in game reserves but could get permission for resident hunting if the resident owned an appropriate and licensed firearm. People often imagine trophy-safari hunting taking place in special reserves set aside solely for hunting. However, many of the country’s hunting areas were located on village land. These lands are designated as GCAs and OAs, demarcating them as areas with abundant wildlife populations suitable for hunting, as well as areas of human settlement and production.
Enlisting Pastoralists in Conservation
In 1985 the Norwegian Agency for International Development provided a grant to the Tanzanian MNRT to develop a regional conservation strategy for the Serengeti, known as the Serengeti Regional Conservation Strategy (SRCS). Staff from the FZS, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Serengeti Wildlife Research Institute helped plan and facilitate the initial organizational meeting of the SRCS. The goal of the SRCS was to address what it described as “the growing conflicts between the needs of people and those of conservation in the Serengeti region.”35 The SRCS also signaled the conservation community’s recognition that the future of Serengeti wildlife depended on the management of the entire ecosystem, including large areas outside the core national park.
One of the recommendations of the SRCS was to ensure compatible land use in adjacent areas referred to as “buffer zones.” Although buffer zone was not an official land category, Serengeti National Park officials had used the term to describe the Loliondo GCA in the past. The SRCS report recommended changing the primary use of GCAs surrounding national parks from hunting areas to conservation buffer zones. It noted, “The game controlled areas . . . limit [resident] hunting but do not otherwise prescribe land-uses; as such they have often been the site of unrestricted settlement and cultivation. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that buffer zones per se are not presently recognized as a category of land-use under existing Tanzanian legislation.”36 The SRCS report went on to say that Loliondo “presents a particularly valuable opportunity to develop the buffer zone concept in the Serengeti region.”37
The SRCS leaders believed that helping to address threats to pastoral livelihoods, including cattle theft and lack of reliable grain markets, could be the foundation for cooperation between the park and local populations. Despite the antagonistic history between Serengeti National Park officials and the Loliondo Maasai, the insecure livelihood of pastoralists appeared to present an interesting opportunity for collaboration. Having a strong state partner like the TANAPA to address livestock raiding from the Sukuma and Kuria people living in the western Serengeti, as well as the multiple threats to convert pasture into large-scale farms, was an appealing prospect to many Maasai leaders.
For the TANAPA and its NGO partners, the AWF and the FZS, the SRCS was an opportunity to build better relationships with neighboring Maasai and to solidify the importance of conservation in the Loliondo area. The SRCS report recommended creating “an experimental zone, ten kilometers in width, . . . along the eastern boundary of Serengeti National Park.”38 It continued, “The wildlife authorities should initiate a dialogue with the relevant regional authorities and representatives of the local people, in order to obtain their cooperation in the establishment and management of such an area. As an immediate first step, an agreement should be reached on preventing the establishment of agriculture in the vicinity of the park boundaries.”39 To this end, the TANAPA established a “parks as good neighbors” program (ujirani mwema in Kiswahili), also known as the Community Conservation Service (CCS). The CCS provided social services to rural communities adjacent to the park. CCS efforts in Loliondo included the construction of primary-school classrooms and a health clinic and laying water pipes.40
The SRCS architects believed that strengthening pastoralists’ rights through secure village land tenure would create a legal framework enabling their buffer-zone proposal to work. To that end, they proposed assisting district and national officials to survey and title Loliondo villages. If the promise of the park outreach program worked as planned, the TANAPA believed that investing revenues from Serengeti National Park into village development projects like school classrooms, water infrastructure, and medical dispensaries would encourage the Maasai to accept the buffer-zone concept and embrace managing their village land for wildlife conservation. A village titling program created the conditions for the TANAPA to distribute benefits to identifiable communities. The SRCS joined together with KIPOC, the IUCN, and the Arusha Catholic Diocese Development Organization (ADDO) in their village registration campaign to survey and demarcate villages in Loliondo. With financial support from the Ford Foundation and other donors, ADDO had already worked with NGOs and government agencies in Kiteto, Simanjiro, and Monduli Districts. These groups worked together with the regional land office to demarcate boundaries between villages. By 1990, nine villages in Loliondo had received official title deeds. Maasai village leaders and SRCS representatives believed that these title deeds were more significant than the standard certificate of occupancy. Maasai leaders saw village titles as a way to protect Maasai collective land rights. Conservationists saw the titles as a way to create a framework for a buffer zone that covered the entire boundary of Serengeti National Park, spanning multiple villages.41
The Multiple Meanings of Conservation
Although the SRCS identified possibilities for collaboration, pastoralists and conservationists did not share a history of overlapping interests. Building on the Loliondo Pilot Community Conservation Project, the AWF applied for a grant of one hundred thousand dollars from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in 1991. The proposal would allow the AWF to continue its work in Loliondo as part of its “Neighbors as Partners” program. In the initial proposal, the AWF identified the Loliondo-based NGO described in chapter 2, KIPOC, as its local partner. One of the chief objectives of the project was “to strengthen the institutional capabilities of a truly indigenous and independent NGO, KIPOC, which [would] act as a mechanism to address conservation issues in the local communities in the Loliondo Division.”42
KIPOC means “we shall recover” in the Maasai language. One of the reasons the name was chosen was to challenge Western conceptions of conservation. The name signified that conservation was a discourse that the Maasai must both participate in and overcome. Ironically, in their documents and reports the AWF staff translated the meaning of KIPOC as “we will survive,” drawing on a more recognizable framing of conservation as preservation of nature, which cast the Maasai in a fixed and anachronistic relationship with their land.
After a few meetings between KIPOC and the AWF, the AWF staff changed their plans. The AWF requested dropping KIPOC as its partner in a revised proposal submitted some months later. In a brief paragraph, the AWF officials wrote, “While AWF wholeheartedly supports the concept of local people organizing into a non-governmental body to promote development and conservation, it appears it will not be possible to utilize KIPOC to the extent anticipated.”43 AWF officials had hoped that the community conservation efforts under the TANAPA’s good-neighbors program had influenced the development of KIPOC and its stance toward conservation. KIPOC’s agenda, however, was built around a crucible of land and cultural rights, in which the AWF, the FZS and the TANAPA were seen more as obstacles to pastoralist development than as potential allies. KIPOC and other Loliondo leaders joined with international conservationists in the village-titling project to restrict large-scale agricultural development and defend rangelands. They did not, however, support the associated goals of conservation groups to turn Loliondo villages into a buffer zone for Serengeti National Park.
Safari Hunting, the Wildlife Division, and Community Conservation
The SRCS focused on relations between Serengeti National Park and the surrounding communities. It also had another goal, to advocate against hunting in the region. It might not seem unusual for conservation NGOs or private tourism companies to oppose hunting. For many advocates of CBC in Africa, hunting was not anathema to conservation goals. Drawing lessons from the well-regarded CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) in Zimbabwe, where hunting was the key economic activity, many CBC advocates believed that Tanzania’s lucrative hunting industry could be key in helping rural communities earn substantial revenue from local wildlife. This dynamic helped establish opposing camps on how CBC would be run in Tanzania, pitting groups like FZS and AWF, which saw CBC as a way to promote a nonconsumptive form of conservation, against groups like GTZ and the WD, which largely wanted to reduce poaching and promote conservation for hunting. These differing positions relied on an understanding of safari tourism as either nonconsumptive ecotourism or trophy-hunting tourism.
As part of the economic reform process that came along with SAPs and austerity measures, the MNRT established the Wildlife Sector Review Task Force (WSRTF) in 1994. It was made up of government officials and foreign technical advisors and was tasked with providing recommendations for wildlife reform. One of the WSRTF’s (1995) conclusions was that tourist hunting, given its lucrative nature, had the greatest potential to provide concrete benefits to local communities and create meaningful incentives for conservation. This belief was soon codified in the Tanzanian Government’s Policy and Management Plan for Tourist Hunting published in 1995. The policy called for “widen[ing] opportunities for rural people . . . to participate in the tourist hunting industry and . . . ensur[ing] more equitable distribution of revenue.”44
The task force recommendations were incorporated into the country’s first policy specifically aimed at conservation activities outside national parks and game reserves. The Wildlife Policy of 1998 created the legal framework for privatizing the hunting industry that had already been under way since the desertion of the national hunting company, Tanzania Wildlife Corporation (TAWICO), in the late 1980s. With wildlife the property of the state no matter where it was found, the Wildlife Policy of 1998 provided the first framework for local communities to legally participate in wildlife management on community lands. The process was for communities to establish WMAs in order to gain legal rights and joint-management authority with state agencies over wildlife. Signaling a new role for villages, the document reads, “It is the aim of this policy to allow rural communities and private landholders to manage wildlife on their land for their own benefit.”45
The language of the policy left open many possibilities. WMAs could not be formed without the release of the guidelines and regulations that would come four years later, in 2002. Still, the policy signaled a change in the relationship between communities, the state, and wildlife on village lands. Tanzania’s wildlife bureaucracy, however, was not well prepared to receive the reforms. The WD had only recently reorganized the hunting industry, in 1988, and was loath to relinquish its authority over this lucrative activity.46 Debate about the efficacy of CBC in Tanzania would largely hinge on the question of community participation and the competing roles of hunting and ecotourism in rearticulating conservation to a specific form of safari tourism.
Despite the rhetoric of WMAs and greater community participation in conservation, Maasai communities in Loliondo were skeptical that the WD and the MNRT were truly willing to devolve rights to local communities. For example, before releasing the WMA guidelines and regulations in 2002, the MNRT cracked down on all existing village tourism arrangements. The government released the Wildlife Conservation (Tourist Hunting) Regulations of 2000, essentially declaring all existing contracts between villages and ecotourism companies illegal.47 The regulations stated, “No person shall conduct tourist hunting, game viewing, photographic safari, walking safari or any wildlife based tourist safari within a hunting block . . . except . . . with the written authority of the Director of Wildlife. . . . Provided that this sub regulation shall not apply where such activities are carried out in gazetted Wildlife Management Areas.” Communities often turned to NGOs to assist them in navigating the often contradictory and complex terrain of wildlife reform. As I discuss in the next section, the NGO sector was also divided on how best to approach CBC in northern Tanzania.
Conservation NGOs and WMAs
While NGOs have different goals, donors, and agendas, several well-funded conservation NGOs played a central role in promoting and maintaining support for conservation in Tanzania. The two NGOs that dominated the Serengeti ecosystem, including Loliondo, were the U.S.-based AWF and the German-based FZS. Both of these NGOs were very influential in the SRCS, working with the TANAPA in its attempt to promote the value of national parks to bordering communities in the 1980s. One of the key provisions of the WMA policy was to involve an international NGO to partner with the government to help fund and implement the WMA. The AWF and the FZS were the two primary NGO partners in northern Tanzania. These NGOs were deeply invested in the core system of protected areas in northern Tanzania and saw community conservation as a new approach to fulfill long-standing desires to conserve land in Loliondo for conservation.48 Both NGOs dedicated funding and resources, including staff and time, to CBC. However, for both the AWF and the FZS, CBC remained a relatively small part of their overall operations. As a U.S.-based NGO and a large recipient of USAID funding, the AWF embraced market approaches to conservation. It established a business development office in its Arusha headquarters to help communities start tourism-related enterprises. The FZS remained more committed to a parks-based approach to conservation. It saw CBC as a way to extend goodwill between parks and people and to finally establish the long-sought-after buffer zones around Serengeti National Park. The FZS’s approach looked very similar to the one laid out in the SRCS, in which it played a prominent role.
At the same time that the AWF and the FZS captured funding and influence in the development of CBC in northern Tanzania, a group of newer NGOs, less well funded and with significantly lower profiles, emerged. This group of international NGOs saw the emerging market for ecotourism outside protected areas as the driver of new revenue that could fund more innovative and successful approaches to CBC. Advocates of this more market-based approach to conservation believed that to achieve genuine participation and enthusiasm from community partners, CBC had to address the problematic legacies of colonial conservation and decenter state authorities as the only viable conservation experts. For these groups and the individuals who staffed them, their critique of state power and interests served as an effective connection with rural communities living in wildlife-rich areas.
These new voices for neoliberal conservation approaches saw liberalizing the wildlife sector and tourism on village lands as a win-win for conservation and poverty reduction. Rather than seeing state institutions like the WD or the TANAPA as their primary partners, these NGOs considered private ecotourism companies their key partners to fulfill the promise of CBC. Supporters of this free-market approach to conservation believed that community conservation would not only reduce poverty and generate new support for conservation; they also saw it as a moral project that would begin to reverse the colonial legacies associated with conservation. With large and influential conservation NGOs like the AWF and the FZS already entrenched with state interests and institutions, newer NGOs took leadership roles in this brave new world of conservation politics.
One of the groups to promote this new conservation agenda in northern Tanzania was the Sand County Foundation (SCF). The SCF was a relatively small NGO led by Fred Nelson, an expatriate researcher and development worker from the United States. Nelson had spent time in southern Africa working with CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe. He was a passionate advocate for harnessing tourism revenues to support community conservation initiatives. When he first arrived in Tanzania, Nelson tried to work directly with the conservation establishment but was largely turned away by the AWF and other influential NGOs. The SCF had no history in Tanzania, and Nelson operated with an unusual degree of freedom, picking and choosing the projects he wanted to support. As an outsider to the influential foreign conservation community, Nelson worked directly with CBOs and private tourism operators, whom he found shared many of his ideas and beliefs.
In 2000 Nelson helped to start the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF), a nonprofit group formed to promote community natural-resource management in Tanzania. Nelson and others believed that to compete with groups like the AWF and the FZS for policy influence, they needed to form their own organization that would articulate their positions and lobby for specific political change and reform. The mission of the TNRF is “to bring about improved natural resource governance in Tanzania by being a demand-driven network of members and partners that helps people to bridge the gap between people’s local natural resource management needs and practices, and national natural resource management priorities, policies, laws and programs.”49 The TNRF recognized that international NGOs dominated the conservation agenda and believed that a robust civil-society organization needed to include local NGOs and private companies. TNRF founders and directors believed that these groups shared interest in using market-based approaches to managing landscapes, and that these approaches would best address both sustainable conservation and livelihood security. The idea was to create a forum where differing opinions could be discussed and negotiated by the members, rather than by outside experts and donors. As discussed in chapter 6, support from groups like the SCF and the TNRF lent legitimacy to private sector–initiated projects. In fact, the TNRF and its members helped promote the idea that many projects initiated by private companies were more ethical and just than those initiated either by state agencies or mainstream international conservation organizations.
This history is important in understanding how Maasai communities in Loliondo understood conservation and the NGOs that promoted it. In 2002 the government passed the Wildlife Conservation Regulations, giving the WMAs legal status and setting a three-year period to establish the sixteen pilot WMAs throughout the country.50 Given the significant costs and complex structure of establishing a WMA, substantial funding and expertise were necessary. The policy approach was to pair each WMA with a sponsoring NGO that would both fund and provide technical support to the AA overseeing the WMA. In partnership with influential donors like the USAID and the GTZ, the WD selected these “strategic” partners and chose the FZS to help finance and facilitate the WMA in Loliondo. By choosing the most iconic NGO associated with the creation and administration of Serengeti National Park, the FZS, the WD faced an uphill battle to convince Loliondo leaders that this was a truly community-based project.
It took almost ten years, but by 2011 there were fourteen registered AA’s participating in the WMA program. Loliondo was not among them. From the start, WMAs were promoted as decentralized business ventures that would give communities legal rights to wildlife in exchange for a commitment to managing a portion of village lands for conservation. In November 2011 the TNRF hosted a workshop to assess the first decade of WMAs. The workshop, “Wildlife for Communities in Tanzania: Taking Stock of Governance of Wildlife by Communities,” brought together researchers, government officials, nonprofit organizations, CBOs, foreign donors, international conservation organizations, and tourism investors.
The overall conclusion of the meeting was that after a decade the WMAs had not lived up to their promise. A summary of research included the observation that “there is often little genuine community participation and evidence that communities have sometimes been forced to accept WMAs.” One researcher concluded, “There are often high conservation-induced costs—crop damage, livestock depredation, opportunity costs of land and related resources. Benefits are often very limited, or absent altogether.” Another study found that “business investors [were] frustrated with the lack of clarity and consistency in policy, changing regulations and fees, lack of security of the investments, and other issues.” Yet another study noted that “there [were] emerging conflicts between member villages in WMAs. Some villages [had] contributed more land for WMAs than others.”51
These findings, while provisional, supported the fears that Loliondo leaders expressed in the late 1990s when their area was designated as one of the pilot WMAs. Their refusal to participate, making Loliondo the only area to do so, sparked the growing tension between Maasai villages in Loliondo and state officials over how best to manage wildlife on village lands.
Legislating Land Rights
The Land Acts of 1999 divide all Tanzanian land into three legal categories or recognized classes. (For a brief overview of this and other major wildlife and land legislation, see the appendix.) These are general land, reserved land, and village land. Reserved land refers to lands set aside for special purposes such as forest reserves and game reserves and are governed by nine different laws. Village land refers to that land managed by each village council. General land is all land that is neither reserved land nor village land. This new class of land is the most controversial and contentious category, one that has created uncertainties in establishing firm village land rights.52 “The ambiguity stems from the definition of General Land which is provided in the Land Act: ‘general land’ means all public land which is not reserved land or village land and includes unoccupied or unused village land” (Sundet 2005, 3). This clause has caused obvious concern on the part of village authorities, which must reestablish village boundaries by demarcating and registering village boundaries based on new land surveys, bylaws, and land-use plans to demonstrate ownership, regardless of previous titles or certificates. Many Maasai believe that the ambiguity of this clause was designed to help the government to identify “surplus” land for investors. The long history of public land seizures, especially for conservation areas and large-scale agriculture, has contributed to pastoralists’ skepticism toward the land reforms and the bureaucratic complexity involved in re-securing village land tenure.53
While the specific language of the new laws may seem outside the scope of everyday conversations about land rights, the entanglement of conservation reforms and land reforms has led to heightened awareness and discussion of the new laws and their implications for pastoral land security. Specifically, the recent wildlife reforms to create WMAs outside the core protected areas of national parks and game reserves have left the many pastoralist communities with limited choices. Advocates, including international conservation organizations like the AWF, the WWF, the FZS; international donors like the USAID and the GTZ; the WD; and some local government bodies such as village and district councils, have argued that establishing a WMA will guarantee its status as village land, despite the need to gazette the WMA as reserved land. Detractors, including community organizers and NGOs, argue that anxieties over land tenure contribute to a misinformation campaign, and that gazetting land as a WMA jeopardizes long-term village access to and control of the land. Groups on both sides of the WMA debate have sponsored workshops and training sessions regarding the new legislation.54 In 2002 the Government of Tanzania proposed to allow fifteen areas to create pilot WMAs and gain for the first time legal rights to negotiate contracts with tourism and hunting companies. Of the fifteen designated pilot areas, Loliondo is the only one to have so far rejected and resisted the implementation of the WMA.
The WMA was supposed to create a new mechanism for allocating safari tourism concessions on village lands for both hunting and ecotourism. This would replace the current system in which the central government leases hunting concessions on village land to private, largely foreign-owned hunting companies. Village leaders have complained that they do not benefit from these activities and have argued for greater control over wildlife on their land. The WMA aims to address this by devolving certain rights and management responsibilities to village leaders in exchange for guarantees of land management practices that promote conservation and limit permanent agriculture and settlement. Some village leaders across Tanzania have accepted the terms of the WMA, seeing it as the best way to shore up their land rights in these uncertain times and to have a more direct say in the type of safari tourism activities on their land. The village leaders in Loliondo and their supporters have not accepted the WMAs and see them as a way to destabilize pastoralist tenure by setting aside even more resources exclusively for conservation. Community leaders have connected the WMA policy with past efforts to extend park boundaries such as the SRCS. They have also drawn on their recent history working with ecotourism companies, signing contracts, and collecting use fees for access to wildlife on village land.
While Loliondo’s opposition to the WMA cannot be reduced to a single factor, it is clear that a few key areas of agreement about the WMA emerged at community meetings in Loliondo. One was the history of suspicion of anything that seemed like a state-led conservation effort. The FZS and the AWF tried to distance themselves from state wildlife management agencies and prove their new bona fides, but their participation only further jeopardized the notion that the WMA was a community-based initiative. Another key concern was how resources were to be divided and managed between villages themselves. The WMA was to be managed jointly by several villages. This model was designed to spread revenue across villages that had disproportionate resource wealth but which formed a viable habitat for wildlife. It should be noted that while Loliondo’s shared boundary with Serengeti National Park linked six villages as an important dispersal area for Serengeti wildlife, each village had been able to attract its own investment without ceding any property rights or management authority to neighboring communities (see chapter 6). The legacies of the village titling program codifying discrete Maasai villages as distinct communities would continue to influence wildlife management and tourism in Loliondo.
Resisting the WMA required more than just antagonism and mistrust of the government’s commitment to balance conservation and development. It also depended on the ability of local communities to find alternative ways to articulate and defend their property rights. Loliondo residents and their fellow Maasai in Simanjiro were the only group of people in the country to resist the implementation of the WMA policy, and their leaders often drew on their belief that there were alternatives to the WMA. Although the WD continued to insist that the WMA was the only choice, the ecotourism contracts and joint ventures represented an alternative for “home grown” CBC in which the villages felt that they had more control over the terms of the relationships with investors, which were negotiated at a “very local level.”
As long as groups do not trust state institutions to safeguard their interests, communities like those in Loliondo will look for alternative means to assert and legitimize their claims. By the early twenty-first century, the market, however tainted in the eyes of communities and state institutions, possessed magical qualities. To proponents of the WMA, the market holds the promise of transforming the value of Tanzanian nature and harnessing it for local and national development. For Loliondo residents, the market appears capable of validating long-standing Maasai claims to territory in their ongoing struggle to find a legitimate place in the national community of Tanzania without having to submit their land to extensive bureaucratic oversight and uncertain land-use restrictions by accepting the terms of the WMA.