|Village elder receiving a water pump
In 1989, when the restoration of the Mkomazi Game Reserve was declared a National Priority Project, the Tanzanian Government and the trusts also agreed that, when the rehabilitation programmes were underway, they would establish community programmes for the residents of the villages surrounding the reserve. This would be a huge task, encompassing 41 villages within three districts, and would run alongside a programme to help the pastoralists living between the border of the reserve and the local villages at the foot of the Pare and Usambara Mountains.
The Mkomazi Game Reserve Outreach Programme was started in 1993 at the request of the Tanzanian Government. Originally developed and coordinated by Harrie and Truus Simons, it has now been institutionalised by the Government, who have taken over the main responsibilities of the programme, and whom the trusts are actively assisting.
Our long term commitment is to ensure that the local communities benefit from the presence of the reserve and come to look upon wild animals as a non-consumptive resource. To that end, the trusts have contributed funds to facilitate the expanding women's groups, rehabilitate several primary schools, help and enlarge medical dispensaries, equip a physiotherapy unit for disabled children, roof a regional secondary school, employ a district game officer to work alongside a teacher (who has been funded to attend a wildlife college), establish outreach offices, and sponsor the Mkomazi Game Reserve Football Team.
In other districts - some run by volunteer Maasai - the programme has funded the salary of a teacher at a Maasai primary school, and given grants to cover secondary school fees for low income pupils. The women's groups dedicate their time and resources to health, irrigation, education, agricultural and economic issues, as well as raising the status of women in the villages.
Recently, the trusts completed the building of a secondary school in Kisiwani village, which already educates 200 students and has the potential to educate a further 200. The construction consists of 8 classrooms, staff administration offices, refurbishment of the headmaster's house, a computer room and pit latrines. The school now has an independent water pipe line. We have also built two science laboratories. This is the only secondary school in the vicinity of Kisiwani, giving secondary education to students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. The government has staffed it with a first class headmaster and teachers. Adult education is carried out in the school in the evenings.
Although the trusts provided the majority of funds for the construction of this school, it was a cooperative effort between the District of Same, the Kisiwani village authorities, the Wildlife Division, the Ministry of Education and the trusts. We were honoured when the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mrs Zakia Meghji, officially opened the school in August 1999. The minister for Education has also visited the school
The trusts are hoping to extend this programme of schools assistance to other villages around what has now become the Mkomazi National Park and to this effect have worked with the Wildlife Division Project Manager to start refurbishment of a school in Mnazi and Kivingo villages, Lushoto District.
We are also strongly committed to the on-going work of the women's groups. The outreach programme has now been developed together with the Mkomazi National Park Project Manager, Members of Parliament, the District Commissioners and District Development Officers of the three surrounding districts. Educational safaris have taken place to the major villages surrounding the reserve, where the long term plans for Mkomazi National Park have been discussed, and priority needs in the villages identified. Donations of cement have been officially handed over to the MP for Same for refurbishment of secondary schools. We hope to donate the same to Lushoto and Mwanga districts
The building and de-silting of dams within the reserve, to provide alternative dry season water sources for large mammals, is an important part of eliminating the conflict between the villagers and wildlife. Also, the trusts' JCB and Caterpillar grader have been working in Same town to assist the District Council in the maintenance of roads and ditches. Regular meetings are held with the local village leaders and school boards to maintain positive relations.
The maintenance of close co-operation with the local communities is vital if Tanzania is to sustain Mkomazi National Park as a precious national resource.