Arusha caught the annual cupid fever rather and the residents are now trying hard to catch up on lost time. Stationery stores over the last two weeks, stocked cards of all sizes that have romantic lines described to be seductive enough to swoon the targeted ladies.
Since Friday, streets were lined up with buckets filled with flowers, mostly fresh red roses sold between 1,500/- and 2,500/- per bunch (comprising of twenty stems) or 500/- per single stem, with sellers experiencing a roaring business.
Ms Jacqueline Mkindi, the Executive Director of the Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) with headquarters in Arusha said members of TAHA are the sole growers of fresh-cut flowers mainly grown for export but of late there has been growing local demand for the petals.
Ms Mkindi admits that the demand for roses in the country usually soars sky-high during the Valentine's Day period and this year is no exception. "The northern zone, precisely Arusha, is the main producer of fresh flowers, including roses. We sell flowers as far as Dar-es-Salaam and Mwanza," she stated.
The Valentine's Day festivities also boosts the fresh flower exports volume by over 80 per cent which just goes to show how the rest of the world is infatuated with the Day. Patronised by FM Radio stations, the young people in Arusha are the ones buying the flowers and cards for Valentine's Day.
Just after finishing college, Ms Devotha Festus has never bought flowers. "I normally get a single rose together with a card, chocolates and, occasionally a teddy bear," she said. "Flowers are always on market in Arusha with or without Valentines' Day," says Ms Christine Mbise, a flower vendor. "There are so many weddings which take place every weekend and all these require fresh supplies," she adds.
Whether driven by pressures of work and family responsibilities or due to the fact that romance usually fades once couples are married, adults in Arusha do not seem to care much about Valentine's Day sentiments. In the past, Arusha's Saint Theresa Catholic Cathedral, under Father Rochus Mkoba, organised special Valentines' Day, candle-lit church gatherings for married couples, regardless of religious affiliation.
However as time went by the number of partners turning up for these gatherings got lower with time. The men being the more reluctant partners.
Arusha cattle keepers on mass exodus to southern highlands
IT IS reported that Arusha is home to over 12 million livestock, mostly cattle and this segments 30 per cent of the country's total livestock stable.
Tanzania with about 21.3 million cattle, 15.2 million goats and 6.4 million sheep, or about 43 million livestock, is third in Africa after Sudan and Ethiopia in having the highest number of livestock on the continent. Arusha is also home to farming communities claiming their share of land for cultivation and judging from tribal conflicts that have marred the vicinity for years in the past, farming and livestock grazing can hardly boil in the same pot.
Today trespassing on people's farms, plots or conservation areas attracts, among other penalties, confiscation of cattle, fines and even jail terms. Pastoralists who in the past enjoyed endless plains for grazing now find themselves being pushed out of their customary lands by investors.
They come in form of conservators, large scale farmers, investors and real estate developers and all these trades require large areas of land, ample natural water sources. Officiating at a meeting of pastoral communities who gathered in Arusha recently, the Deputy Minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Benedict Ole Nangoro, said in most cases the cattle keepers are unfairly forced out of their customary lands.
"When cattle herders move from one place to another in search of greener pastures, some land grabbers move into their former areas, taking over all land claiming that they are empty open spaces," said the Minister. Ole Nangoro explained pastoralists move away for a while in order to let the grass grow, as they graze their animals elsewhere, but of late they get shocked to find people have occupied the land they left behind.
As a result a number of pastoralists are heading south; in the past the journey used to end in Morogoro where many Maasai found new homes but with urbanisation, Morogoro is no longer ideal for grazing cattle. The Southern Highlands seem to be the desired destination for the livestock lovers hailing from North. Regions like Mbeya and Lindi do not have a lot of cattle and residents there practise subsistence farming which means they occupy very little land.
Besides, large scale investors seem to be only interested in the northern chunks of land, which means the Maasai should be safe for a while down there and in fact, even if their fellow large stocks herders from Mwanza and Shinyanga regions join the south-bound bandwagon.
Mr Ibrahim Kilongo is the commanding officer for the National Stock Theft Preventive Unit (STPU) of the Police Force, headquartered in Arusha. He admits that during his recent operations, he has encountered many mass exoduses of cattle from the north, heading south. The reduction of cattle from Arusha may also have something to do with decreasing cases of livestock thefts in Ngorongoro district which in the past has been notorious for the animal raiding rackets.
Other than displacement, there are other factors that could be pushing pastoralists from Arusha, taking them towards the Southern Direction; drought for instance is one of them. The Maasai will trek thousands of kilometres seeking better pastures and water for their livestock.
Education centre inspires youth
SINGITA Grumeti Reserves, located on the western corridor of the Serengeti in Tanzania, opened an environmental education centre two and a half years ago to educate youth on protecting communal lands and the Serengeti eco-system.
As custodian of this magnificent wilderness that spreads across 340,000 acres (142,000ha) of game rich savannah, Singita is determined to play a significant role in ensuring the sustainability and protection of this vast, pristine wildlife area, by inspiring youth -- and so encourage a sense of responsibility towards managing natural resources.
A heart-warming story is that of six students from Dr Nchimbi School, who, after completing the course, motivated the management of their school to form an environment committee with the aim of creating awareness and implementing sustainable practices. Amongst these projects carried out, one was to find a solution to soil erosion in the area. They did this by planting grass, which was nurtured by harvesting rainwater.
Approximately 25 courses per year are conducted at the Centre, attended by 300 high school children from 26 secondary schools in the Bunda and Serengeti districts, bordering the Singita Grumeti Reserves. Two full-time trainers manage the project. Learning is hands-on and includes practical research and game drives into the reserves. The project, aims to encourage learners to adopt a lifestyle that is in harmony with their environment.
In 2002 the Singita Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund (SGF) was granted the right to manage and conserve the reserve. Singita Grumeti Reserves has funded the construction of the Environmental Education Centre, and finances the running and maintenance of the centre.
The project is supported by Funding Partners -- Singita guests who either sponsor the cost of a five-day course for the 12 learners and two teachers ($2,000), or who sponsor a student for $150 for the 5-day course.