The work of Kesho Trust in the Saadani area has been building over the past few years. It started with a partnership with SANA back in 2008 when we discussing ideas for possible cooperative ventures. We then joined the PAPR research alliance and promoted Saadani as a possible study area within that project. SANA was an important partner in supporting the work of the PAPR and continues to cooperate with us in further community relationships in the area. More significantly we have developed a joint project – Kihembe – which is a critical and significant undertaking for our organizations. Kihembe is an environmental learning centre that will provide on-site experiences for school children community people and visitors to get to know and appreciate the environment of Saadani National Park [SANAPA] and its surroundings. And now we are embarking on another project – PECC – which is expanding our working relationships on conservation initiatives in the region.
The focus of our work in the Saadani area is not surprising. As a new park there have been struggles in Saadani’s establishment especially with the changes for surrounding communities. Relationships have not been well developed between the communities and the park management. Added to that, is the fact that Saadani is actually not that well known and not on tourism’s major park circuit leaving park management with significant challenges and limited budgets.
Pressures on the park are significant now, especially land use pressure on the periphery of a relatively small protected area. And this pressure is poised to grow dramatically with the implementation of new major economic development projects adjacent to the park, a multitude of local land use decisions at the village level and the talk of a new highway to link Dar es Salaam and Tanga along the coast. As a result, our work to foster greater understanding of conservation principles and practices is now, will be in the future an increasingly important contribution to the effective development of this area of Tanzania.
In this work we are not alone. There are established tourism operators inside and on the north and west of the park that are making significant efforts to support communities and promote the goals of the national park and conservation generally at the same time. Other NGO initiatives, notably the Tanzania Coastal Management Program [TCMP] and Sea Sense, are similarly active in the area and engaging in sustainable community development efforts.
However central to the effort as a whole is the park itself. SANAPA has well established policies and systems of management as well as a mandate for both community outreach and public education. We are in a position to assist in their efforts and working together will always produce better results than in isolation. Thus our efforts to engage with all the various stakeholders in the region – SANAPA, local government, communities, NGOs and the tourism sector – are critical to the success of our project activities.
Recently I met with Hassan Nguluma, Chief Park Warden of Saadani National Park, to update him on our project activities and our new PECC project. Our organizations met during 2012 to discuss cooperation approaches which focused on planning our activities together so that we find efficient and effective ways to achieve common goals. For example, Kihembe is a contribution to the fulfillment of SANAPA’s management plan – providing an interpretive centre that serves public understanding of the park and its environment. Our new PECC project also contributes to the promotion and implementation of community outreach initiatives that are a recognized responsibility for SANAPA in its plan.
We are planning regular meetings to ensure collaboration and coordination continue in a productive way. This partnership with SANAPA is an extremely important one for us and will make our contributions to the Saadani area more effective and sustainable. We thank Hassan and his staff for the recognition of this partnership and the potential it has for the future.
Working to conserve Saadani – Photo: B.K.Downie