EAMCEF heightens anti-poaching drive in Udzungwa’s Kilombero nature reserve (Tanzania)


Lusekelo Philemon, IPP Media

Date Published

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“There are a number of interventions which have contributed to zero poaching in the area. We have our own by-laws that prohibit anyone from getting into the reserve and everyone respects that”
It is very difficult to end elephant poaching if people living in the vicinity of the Tanzania’s wildlife sanctuaries are overwhelmed with hunger and poverty. 
The only way to mitigate this temptation is by providing incentives such as employment, through wildlife based revenue streams. Surrounded by 19 villages, Kilombero Natural Reserve is a good example of community involvement in protecting wildlife. 
Located in more than 50 kilometres from Iringa Municipality, the reserve is very rich in biodiversity. 
Villagers there have managed to come up with community scouts who are responsible for taking care of the reserve, thanks to the initiatives made by the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF). 
Thanks to the scouts, the sanctuary is free of encroachers and poachers but before the interventions by the local government authorities and other players like EAMCEF, people used to invade the area for hunting and then poachers started targeting large mammals like elephants.

Frank Sima is one of the KNR’s officials who recounts that elephant poaching cases have gone down since 2010.
“For the last five years, we have witnessed only eight cases of elephant killing in or around the nature reserve,” he said.
He said during the period, villagers from 19 villages adjacent to KNR were trained on the importance of managing the reserve and ways to curb poaching in the area.
“Everyone here is a guide so it is very easy to discover a poacher before they even get into the wilderness,” Sima said, commending Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) for its support.
Udekwa is one of the 19 villages which are close to the reserve, the village chairman, Obadia Lubago also confirms that poaching incidents have gone down in the area.
“There are a number of interventions which have contributed to zero poaching in the area. We have our own by-laws that prohibit anyone from getting into the reserve and everyone respects that,” Lubago attested.
According to him, the villagers there are also encouraged to engage in income generating activities such as planting and taking care of tree seedlings, fish farming and animal husbandry.
Commenting on how they have managed to scale-down poaching, Gredson Lekela who is the Udekwa Village Executive Officer said; “this has been possible through collective efforts made by the participatory forest management, whereby communities are highly involved in unearthing poachers.”
He also noted that environmental conservation initiatives among the villagers have gone up, because of regular training.
Expert in conservation who also works with KNR, Theresia Masao also cited community engagement in anti-poaching battle is the secret behind the success.
“It is true in recent years no elephant carcasses were seen in and outside the reserve in recent years…” she said, adding: “Villagers here are highly involved in this campaign. Sometimes we embrace indigenous knowledge to conserve the reserve because it has been there for years and they have their own means of conservation.”
KNR is unique as it also has large mammals such as lion, elephant and buffalo.
The reserve with 134,511ha is shared by two regions—Iringa and Morogoro and is also a home to many rare and threatened species including the Kipunji and Udzungwa partridge.
Some of the key challenges facing KNR management is limited number of staff.
On tourism, authorities in Kilolo District are struggling to put in place transport facilities in KNR so that to lure more tourists; as the current trend is not encouraging as they only get an average of 20 tourists annually.
EAMCEF is a government’s Trust Fund, established and functions as a long-term and reliable funding mechanism to support Community Development, Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Research Projects, which promote the biological diversity, ecological functions and sustainable use of natural resources in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. 
Major Mountain blocks of the Eastern Arc spread over fifteen districts in five regions of Tanzania namely, Tanga (East and West Usambara, and Nguu Mountains), Kilimanjaro (North and South Pare Mountains), Morogoro (Nguru, Uluguru, Ukaguru, Udzungwa, Malundwe, Mahenge and Rubeho Mountains), Dodoma (Rubeho Mountains) and Iringa (Udzungwa Mountains).