13 Jul 2017

Environmental protection is vital for Tanzania’s industrial economy plan

North and South Mara Water Users Association Leaders Distributing Brochures © Enock Kawira
North and South Mara Water Users Association Leaders Distributing Brochures © Enock Kawira
By Enock Kawira and Obaka Torto

Conserving the environment is vital for an industrialized Tanzania, as the country moves towards its vision of a thriving economy by 2025, local environmental groups and advocates have said.

The country’s Mara Water Users Association in collaboration with BirdLife International, stressed this during events marking World Environment Day in the Butiama District of the Mara region, which has been exposed to various environmental threats.

Users of the Mara River Basin in Tanzania are increasingly faced with water shortages, poor water quality and environmental degradation. The management of the Mara River is therefore critical to poverty alleviation, improving health and food security.

The theme, “Environmental conservation; essential for an industrialized Tanzania” was used to encourage conservation groups to advocate for the sustainable use of natural resources.

This message was simplified and translated into the local Kiswahili language as “Hifadhi ya Mazingira; Mhimili kwa Tanzania ya Viwanda” to ease understanding and ensure that everyone understood it.

While launching the first national environmental discussion panel, the Minister of State for Environment and Union, January Makamba, elaborated on the idea of a future Tanzania without full charcoal burning and deforestation. He also highlighted the effects of environmental destruction on the economy, agriculture, livestock, fishing and tourism, warning that the threat of desertification in the country is real, and Tanzania was losing around 2500 acres of forests every day, estimated at 61%.

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The World Environmental Day (WED) commemoration in Butiama was officiated by the Vice President of Tanzania, Hon. Samia Suluhu Hassan.

“It would be difficult for the government to attain its goal of the industrial economy if there will be no environmental protection,” said Ms Hassan.

She led the planting of 1500 trees and warned miners that “the government will no longer tolerate environmental pollution through the discharge of toxic chemicals.”

Water Users Association leaders demonstrating their conservation practices in Mara river and wetlands © Enock Kawira

Butiama is one of the districts in the Mara region, and hometown of Tanzania’s Founder, Julius Nyerere who was famous for being a great environmentalist of his time.

BirdLife International is currently implementing projects that promote the sustainable use of critical wetlands in Lake Victoria Basin, including the Mara wetland.

The South and North Mara Water Users Associations are local conservation groups managing water resources in the Mara basin (WRM Act 2009), through awareness campaigns, capacity development; environmental protection and livelihood activities supported by BirdLife.

These groups participated in the first national environmental dialogue and commemoration of World Environmental day through funding from the MacArthur and PREPARED USAID projects.

During the event, the groups distributed brochures highlighting their work and different conservation activities around the Mara River and wetlands.  They shared their success in environmental conservation awareness to communities in 16 villages and this led to the formation of more conservation groups like the Women Weaver group to deal with sustainable harvesting and smart production of papyrus products. Other groups are the Mshikamano group that grow tree seedling and make energy saving stoves, and the Tupendane Tusaidiane group, which practices smart horticulture.

Other initiates by the Mara Water Users Association include planting water friendly trees in the river banks, bee keeping and papyrus handcraft production as part of increasing community livelihoods.

In May 2017, through BirdLife’s ‘Sustainable use of Critical Wetlands in the Lake Victoria Basin: Action for Nature and People’ project, 6000 trees were planted to restore Buswahili gully. It was a step towards achieving the national goal of planting 1.5 million trees in each region of Tanzania.

The Association’s familiarity and direct connection with community and local government authorities, facilitates participatory and sustainable initiatives for the conservation, sustainable and equitable use of the Mara river basin.