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Thursday, May 10, 2018
Emutai - Land Grab for Safaris
The Tanzanian government is putting foreign safari companies ahead of Maasai herding communities as environmental tensions grow on the fringes of the Serengeti national park, according to a new investigation. Although carried out in the name of conservation, these measures enable wealthy foreigners to watch or hunt lions, zebra, wildebeest, giraffes and other wildlife, while the authorities exclude local people and their cattle from watering holes and arable land, the institute says.
Hundreds of homes have been burned and tens of thousands of people driven from ancestral land in Loliondo in the Ngorongoro district in recent years to benefit high-end tourists and a Middle Eastern royal family, says the report by the California-based thinktank the Oakland Institute.
It says Thomson’s sister company, Tanzania Conservation Limited, is in a court battle with three Maasai villages over the ownership of 12,617 acres (5,106 hectares) of land in Loliondo which the company uses for safaris. The report says villagers have been driven off, assaulted or arrested by local police, park rangers or security guards.
The restricted access to land has made the Maasai more vulnerable to famine during drought years, the report says, noting appeals that locals have made for the government to change policies because of growing numbers of malnourished children.
The report also claims Maasai have been driven off land as a result of government ties with Otterlo Business Corporation, which organises hunting trips for the royal family of the United Arab Emirates and their guests who fly into a custom-built landing strip in Loliondo. Since Otterlo was first granted 400,000 hectares of land for hunting, the government has mounted successive eviction operations.
Despite past government promises that the Maasai would never be evicted from their land, the report notes Serengeti national park rangers burned 114 bomas (traditional homes) in 2015 and another 185 in August of last year. Along with other demolitions, local media report more than 20,000 Maasai were left homeless.
“Without access to grazing lands and watering holes, and without the ability to grow food for their communities, the Maasai are at risk of a new 21st-century period of emutai (eradication),” said Anuradha Mittal, the director of the Oakland Institute.