…The move to resolve protracted Usangu basin dispute

…To quadruple honey production from 32,691 tonnes to 138,000

…It will boost JNHPP dam filling capacity

LAWMAKERS on Tuesday passed a resolution of revoking Kigosi National Park’s status to pave the way for the establishment of the proposed Kigosi Forest Reserve.

The move will see the 8,265 square kilometres protected area placed under the management of Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS).

Moving the motion earlier on, Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Mohamed Mchengerwa informed parliamentarians that communities residing next to the national park were deprived of the opportunity of engaging in income generating activities such as bee keeping and fishing, the moment it was elevated into a protected area.

“Before the government established Kigosi Game Reserve and later Kigosi National Park, this area used to be part of Nikonga and Usumbwa rivers, which allowed communities hailing from Bukombe, Mbogwe, Kahama  and Ushetu districts to engage in a number of economic activities,” the minister explained.

This would however, no longer been the case after the government gazetted the area as a national park, which strictly prohibits human activities, as stipulated in the National Parks Act, Chapter 282.

Alarmed by the situation of residents in the area, the government, according to Mr Mchengerwa thought it wise to reverse the decision by, this time round, elevating the protected area into a Forest Reserve.

This is per the Forest Act number 323, which provides for the conservation and management of forests and forest produce.

“This move will stimulate and boost bee keeping as one of the economic activities fancied by the 126 villages surrounding the Forest Reserve,” pointed out the minister.

Around 1,764 beekeepers have once reaped fortunes from the once present reserve before it became a national park.

According to Mr Mchengerwa, the passing of the resolution will quadruple honey production in Tanzania from the current 32,691 tonnes to a projected 138,000 tonnes a year, a thus guaranteeing the country of foreign currencies.

At the moment, Tanzania exports more than 1,000 tonnes of honey produce which equates to 14million US dollars (about 34bn/), which is equivalent to five per cent of the total honey produced.

The Kigosi area is part of a vast shallow basin drained by seven slow-moving rivers, including the Malagarasi, Moyowosi, Nikonga, Ugalla, Kigosi and Gombe.

The rivers eventually join up into the Malagarasi River, which empties into Lake Tanganyika at Ilagala.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly similarly endorsed a resolution that necessitated the annexation of part of Ruaha National Park.

Minister for National Resources and Tourism Mohamed Mchengerwa told the House that the decision will see some 478 square kilometres relinquished to neighbouring communities with a view resolving a protracted dispute, pitting users of Usangu basin and the government.

“The decision will protect the Usangu basin ecosystem and at the same time, promote conservation of Ruaha National Park,” the minister opined.

Mr Mchengerwa maintained that the move will protect the Great Ruaha River, which also supplies water for livestock keeping, forestry, fishing, mining and tourism, wildlife activities and irrigation activities.

The Great Ruaha River is also crucial in maintaining water flaws into Mtera, Kidatu and Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant (JNHPP) electricity dams.

In his rejoinder, Timotheo Paul Mnzava who chairs the Parliament Standing Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Tourism lauded the move by the government, saying it will strike the right balance between conservation and people’s livelihoods.

“The decision will go as far as complementing government’s efforts of protecting natural resources,” he added.

The addition of the Usangu Game Reserve and other important wetlands to Ruaha National Park in 2008 increased its size to about 7,809 square kilometres.

The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its southeastern margin and is the focus for game-viewing.

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