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The Looming Threat of Eviction: The Continued Displacement of the Maasai Under the Guise of Conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

A boma in the Ngorongoro District.
A boma in the Ngorongoro District © The Oakland Institute
June 10, 2021

The Looming Threat of Eviction: The Continued Displacement of the Maasai Under the Guise of Conservation in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, reveals the Tanzanian government’s plans to evict over 80,000 residents — mostly Indigenous Maasai from their land, further restrict the livelihoods of those remaining, and destroy buildings in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Announced in April 2021, evictions of local residents are scheduled to unfold on an unprecedented scale under the Tanzanian government’s multiple land use management (MLUM) and resettlement plan.

The report exposes the details and unveils the implications of the plan — developed to address the concerns of international conservation agencies and generate tourism revenue for the country. In March 2019, a joint monitoring mission from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) called for action to urgently control population growth in the NCA. The Tanzanian government responded by producing a MLUM and resettlement plan that if enacted, will expand the size of the NCA from 8,100 km2 to 12,083 km2 by including areas from Loliondo Game Controlled Area (GCA), already contested in the East African Court of Justice, and Lake Natron GCA. The plan divides the NCA into four zones, creating new restricted areas where the Maasai are denied access for housing, livestock grazing, and crop cultivation, in addition to recommending the abandonment of nine settlements — despite opposition from Indigenous residents.

The Looming Threat of Eviction dismantles myths, including that of “rising population” used to justify the removal of the Maasai from their land and reveals how this plan was created without consideration of needs of Indigenous residents and proper consultation. The evictions and restrictions constraining tens of thousands of livelihoods are not about ensuring conservation but about expanding tourism revenues within the World Heritage Site. Tourism within the NCA has exploded in recent years with the number of annual tourists increasing from 20,000 in 1979 to 644,155 in 2018 making it one of the most intensively visited conservation areas in Africa. The MLUM plan explicitly mentions the financial stakes conceding that: “maintaining the status quo or leaving the NCA to Indigenous pastoralists the government would lose 50 percent of expected revenue by 2038.”

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