Ruaha airstrip opens for business

MBEYA: A NEW 780m/- airstrip in Ruaha National Park at Mlungu village, Mbarali District in Mbeya has been built to strengthen the fight against illegal poaching while wooing tourists.

The strip construction was funded by Six Rivers Africa Foundation (SRA) and officially opened on Monday by the Mbarali DC, Mr Denis Mwila.

The DC said the airstrip will not only beef-up security in the northern part of Ruaha Park, but also woo tourists to visit the area.

“Air patrols from the strip will intensify the war against poachers, as well as put at bay livestock from entering the park. “It will also attract airlines to introduce direct routes to Ruaha and provide quick assistance whenever an emergency arises,” said the DC.

The strip with a 1.2 kilometres gravel runway has terminal building with a capacity to handle over 30 passengers. The northern part of Ruaha was previously under Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA) before being promoted to join Ruaha National Park.

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The airstrip came at a right time complementing the government efforts to improve tourism infrastructures, especially under Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (REGROW) initiative.

The Ruaha National Park Senior Assistant Commissioner, Mr Godwell Meing’ataki, said the airstrip will also bring in more economic opportunities for wananchi around Ruaha since the number of tourists expected to go up.

He urged the pastoralists to stop seeking grazing in Ruaha, rather, to be part of the national park security officers and eventually grab the available economic opportunities.

The SRA-Tanzania Chairperson, Mr Glenn Turner, expressed the gratitude to the government that has trusted the Foundation throughout the project’s implementation, saying that wananchi around the park have a lot to earn from the investment.

“People will benefit from conservation and tourism-related education through the college on construction in Ruaha,” Mr Turner said.

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