Critical Flaws with Tanzanian Government’s Relocation Plans for the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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May 23, 2022, 10:00 PM PT
Anuradha Mittal, [email protected] +1 510-469-5228
New report examines relocation plans for the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) and identifies serious flaws with the resettlement process, feasibility of the selection sites, and major discrepancies between government promises and the actual situation on the ground.
Relocation sites suffer from inadequate water and grazing resources while government promises of improved services remain doubtful.
Communities living in the relocation sites were not consulted and did not grant their consent prior to the decision to move NCA residents into their land, raising the risk of conflict.
Government claims that the Maasai are volunteering en masse for relocation are debunked as communities continue to struggle for their land and demand authority over decisions regarding future land use decisions in the NCA.
Oakland, CA — As the Tanzanian government advances resettlement plans for the Maasai to be displaced from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a new report from the Oakland Institute identifies serious flaws with the resettlement process, feasibility of the selection sites, and major discrepancies between government promises and the actual situation on the ground.
Flawed Plans for Relocation of the Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area builds on field research conducted at two relocation sites — Msomera village in Handeni district and Kitwai A and B villages in Simanjiro district — to reveal that the sites lack adequate water resources and grazing land while promises of improved social and health services by the government remain unfulfilled. Additionally, the report exposes the failure of the Tanzanian government to comprehensively consult the Msomera and Kitwai community members before deciding to relocate Ngorongoro residents into their villages.
“The government is planning to evict tens of thousands of Maasai and resettle them in sites that seem wholly inadequate. Scarce availability of grazing land and water raises high concerns over their future livelihoods as well as potential risks of conflict with local communities currently living there,” said report author Andy Currier.
On March 31, 2022, the local government ordered that TSh195,500,000 [~US$84,000] in COVID-19 relief funds, initially marked for public schools within the NCA, to be transferred to the Handeni District — the district home to the Msomera village relocation site. “While denying plans for mass evictions in the NCA, the government’s strategy to deprive residents of basic services and the ability to graze livestock, leaves the Maasai with few options for survival in the land they have stewarded for generations,” said Oakland Institute’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal.
The report debunks government claims that Maasai are volunteering en masse for resettlement. In April 2022, 11,000 Maasai community members from the NCA sent a letter to the government and its main donors. The letter clearly stresses their demand to remain in the NCA, stating, “This is not the first time that we are fighting to secure our rights and protect the lives of our people — we need a permanent solution and we need it now. We will not leave; Not Now, Not Ever!” Last month, in a communication sent to the Tanzanian government, eight UN Special Rapporteurs expressed their concern over the “plans for resettlement, forced evictions, home demolitions and additional restrictions.”
Despite courageous and widespread resistance from Maasai living in the NCA, the Tanzanian government continues to constrict their livelihoods and limit basic social services while advancing eviction and resettlement plans without their free, prior, informed consent. “It is imperative that Indigenous residents of the NCA are not just consulted but given real authority over any resettlement schemes or changes to land use regulations,” Mittal concluded.
The dominant framing used by international conservation agencies and Tanzanian government departments — that the NCA must choose between conservation and Indigenous livelihoods — ignores the evidence that empowering Indigenous communities is the most effective way forward to ensure environmental sustainability.