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Village-based elephants control group operating in 25 villages bordering the Serengeti National Park

Serengeti Development Research and Environmental Conservation Center (SEDEREC) is a non-governmental organization Registered in Tanzania Mainland and a member of the Tanzania Nile Discourse Forum(TNDF). The Mission of SEDEREC is to Link Nature Conservation and Human Developments so that both Nature and humankind co-exist; and the overal objective is to ensure equitable social economic development within sustainable a environment.

SEDEREC works to protect Lake Victoria's ecosystem through improved livelihoods, food security, and environmental conservation within populations bordering the Mara River basin. SEDEREC also works to reduce human-wildlife conflicts resulting from wild life movements from Serengeti National Park to villages within the basin.

Human-elephant conflicts mostly exists where human population and wild animals share resources outside protected areas. The negative impacts of these conflicts affect both humans and wild animals. The main negative impacts of Human-Elephants Conflicts are: water sources destruction, crop raiding, loss of lives for both humans and elephants, and killing of livestock. The end results of all these impacts Mara River since most of the population are highly dependent on Mara River basin for their daily living.

Data from Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) depicts a total of 1,069 human deaths, 642 human injuries, 792 livestock depredations, and 41,404 acres of crops damaged for the period 2012 to 2019 (National Human-Wildlife Conflicts Management strategy 2020-2024). Recent research on Human – Elephant Conflicts incidents trends show that Climate Change is the new driver for the conflicts. The deepening Climate change has propelled traditional human activities expanding to buffer areas around the park, while unpredictable change of rain season trends changed plants and water sources availability inside the park that leads the wild animals like elephants crossing over to villages for fresh fodder and water.

The ongoing project addresses Human – Elephant Conflicts in Climate change risks and water conservation within the Mara River Basin, eastern of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. The project works within 10 villages bordering Mara River Basin and Serengeti National Park; it also engages 8 Secondary school students and 25 groups of village youths as security guards who trained on Environmental conservation and Wild animal guarding.
 
Description of the project/ implementation
The Human – Elephant Conflicts (HEC) management project aims to address climate change risks, water conservation and improve coexistence between humans and elephants within villages adjacent to protected areas in Mara River basin. The project focuses on mitigating negative impacts of elephants within villages bordering the Serengeti National Park through capacitating a consortium of village-based elephants control groups registered to work on human - elephant conflict issues.

The project supports the establishment and registration of elephants control groups within 25 villages bordering the Serengeti National Park, provide training to the registered groups by Tanzania wildlife departments (District Game Offices and TAWA), and provide working tools and equipment for field work. The project also constructed 2 pilot village-based game posts within but nearer the border to the national park. The game posts are used by villagers for office and communication issues.
The project works parallel with Grumeti Fund, a tourism investor who implements tourist activities and is committed to improving conservation and livelihoods of peoples in villages in western Serengeti. The Grumeti Fund have constructed a demarcation road and pilot electrical wire fence to separate 5 villages bordering the park – the same area where this project is being implemented.

Left: A section of a maize field destroyed by Elephants from  Serengeti National Park Right: Demarcation road and Electrical wire fence supported by Grumeti FundLeft: A section of a maize field destroyed by Elephants from Serengeti National Park; Right: Demarcation road and Electrical wire fence donated by Grumeti Fund


Village communities and elephant control groups are used to maintain and protect the electrical wire fence at their villages. The electrical fence is still under pilot research phase before it is extended to other areas. The Serengeti Maasai-Mara (SEMA- project) which is a trans-boundary project that links Maasai – Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania also supports our own founded elephant control groups in 3 wards within the basin ecosystem. WWF through SOKNOT (Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania) project have shown interest in community-based approach to work with existing village-based conservation institutions including Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), village Game Scouts and water user associations.
 
HUMAN – ELEPHANT CONFLICT (HEC) - Success stories
  • The project contributed its experience during the stakeholders’ meeting in the establishment of Tanzania National Human Wildlife conflicts (HWC) management strategy 2020-2024 that was endorsed on 5th October, 2020 by the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism.
  • Improved communication between villagers and government game rangers as a result of training where village level groups are reporting elephant incidents, collect monthly data and reporting to government rangers.
  • Reduced monitoring costs by government rangers including vehicles and staff needed to respond to elephant incidences in the villages. Village groups are working on behalf of government rangers.
  • Reduced negative impacts of elephant attacks in village lands; village groups are timely responding to fugitive elephants before they attack and destroy village property and water sources.
  • The Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) are now working closely with village groups as community partners for conservation and wildlife protection matters.
  • The village groups have established microfinance schemes through weekly savings and loan services in their villages. They use the schemes’ weekly forums to learn water conservation issues including climate change adaptation and recovery measures.
 
Challenges the HEC project is facing
  • Despite the human-elephant conflicts mitigation, climate change has diverse risks that are not addressed by the project including gaps for sustainable water conservation and improved livelihoods. Increased extraction of water resources and the environment during prolonged drought seasons, causing destruction of upstream water flow systems.
  • Floods change traditional upstream water flow ways that lead to negative ecological impacts to the basin ecosystem, deviating water flow to communities which affects livelihood systems and social services. All that needs climate change adaptation and response plans that are not part of the current project.
  • Resettlement education from most vulnerable flood zones within the mara river basin are not yet implemented and as a result most of villages are continuously losing their farms, livestock and sometime human life when floods occur. This needs special attention in future plans.
  • Poverty is noted to be increasing within villages in the basin resulting to reduced morale in voluntary conservation issues addressed by the project. Alternative income generating projects are urgently needed to support the ongoing project. Marketing for local products is also needed.

Left: A section of a maize field destroyed by Elephants from  Serengeti National Park Right: Demarcation road and Electrical wire fence supported by Grumeti FundLeft: Locals receive donations of improved seeds for their farms to boost farm yields and food security; Right: Tangible increase in yields and harvest as a result of using improved seeds.
 
Conclusion
The main driver of Human-wildlife conflicts in the region is climate change, hence, mitigation of Human-Wildlife Conflicts within Mara River basin should go hand in hand with measures for mitigation and adaptation to Climate change risks within Lake Victoria upstream ecosystem.
The following extra interventions are required to sustainably conserve the basin ecology and improve livelihoods.
  1. Empowering communities on water conservation and climate change adaption measures, preparedness and recovery options that will increase their resilience to the risks.
  2. Enhance initiatives for improving local land use plan with prioritizing less impacted community activities adjacent to the basin that will reduce threat to water flows and also reduce expected community property losses during floods.
  3. Introduce new projects that will increase alternative benefits to communities adjacent to the basin so as to increase value of the basin to communities.
  4. Establish women and youth projects that will educate the community regarding climate change trends, adaptation measures and alternative recovery options.
  5. Implement alternative initiatives to reduce water use conflicts especially during dry season including water allocation plans for domestic use, livestock, irrigation and other private use.
  6. Protect natural water sources from threat of wildlife conflicts and pollution by human activities that can be made by simple fencing and improvement of water points.
  7. Support community based local institutions including existing village groups and water associations to manage village level conservation and Human-wildlife conflict issues. This will further reduce management costs and increase ownership of interventions
 
SEDEREC joined TNDF in 2012 after showing interest in working with communities in Research and Environmental conservation around Mara River. It further stretched into Gender and Climate Change issues. TNDF plays a role of mediating SEDEREC in HEC project with the Government Agencies to reduce bureaucracy whenever it transpires. As an umbrella to its members, TNDF provides time to time consultations on creating awareness on Climate Change resilience, Gender, research, food security and conflict resolutions.

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