Another wait for butterfly exporters

TANGA : BUTTERFLY farmers at Amani Nature Reserve will have to wait a bit longer as the government mulls over deliberating ban on pupa export.

Four years ago, the government halted the export of butterflies from the expansive forest, dealing the insect farmers a huge blow.

The government has since reiterated that it is reviewing the benefits and losses made from live wild animal exports before making a final decision.

In a telephone interview with the ‘Daily News’ on Monday, the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Fortunat Msofe maintained that the government was still working to resolve the issue, appealing for patience from the farmers.

“The ministry is keenly following up on the matter, we will issue an announcement once ready,” she said.

Her assertion comes in the wake of concerns from villagers residing inside the protected area, who once used to eke out a living from the sale of the insects.

The farmers, who were recently visited by a team of Journalists’ Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) members who toured the Amani-Nilo corridor last week, lamented that they were now compelled to depend on seasonal crops such as Clove and Cardamom, to make ends meet.

“Our lives have taken a sharp turn since the ban on exporting pupa butterflies,” offered Ms Jestina Gakara, a butterfly farmer and exporter in Kwezitu village, Muheza District in Tanga Region.

Ms Gakara, alias Mama Suleiman informed JET members that she was assured of pocketing anything between 400,000 and 600,000/- a month from the butterflies.

She appealed to the government to lift the ban, arguing that the business provided a decent monthly income in exchange for modest amounts of labour and time.

For his part, an officer with Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), Amir Sheghemba admitted that the villagers were now living miserable lives following the ban on butterfly exports.

According to Mr Sheghemba, an initiative like Amani Butterfly Project was introduced in the area for the purpose of enabling more communities to engage in butterfly farming as an income-generating activity, in so doing defining the link between livelihoods and maintaining healthy, intact forest cover.

“The project helped to conserve butterflies along with all the other amazing animal species found in the East Usambara Mountains,” he explained.

The farmers at Amani Nature Reserve are earning a living from the forest by rearing butterfly and moth pupae for export to live exhibits and butterfly houses in Europe and America.

The JET members pitched camp on the slopes of East Usambara Mountains on a fact finding mission, which is part of Tuhifadhi Maliasili, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) five-year activity which addresses threats to animal movement and biodiversity in Tanzania.

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