As we climbed out of Kigali on to one of the ridges leading north-west to the Volcanoes National Park area I was surprised to see the lush, green landscape spreading out across the ridges and valleys way into the distance. This landscape contrasted dramatically with northern Botswana where I have just spent three weeks—where it is dry, dusty and sandy with sparse vegetation except along the rivers.
AWF ecologists, experts from the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), and local community members embarked on an eight-day ecological survey of the Kolo Hills area in northern Tanzania. The team surveyed the presence and distribution of birds, small mammals, insects, and trees as part of a baseline biodiversity assessment to be completed before Kolo Hills can be validated as a REDD+ project site. Several AWF ecologists from different sites in Africa have joined the survey, including Nakedi Maputla, AWF’s Congo landscape ecologist.
Last weekend I found myself standing in front of more than 50 members of the Limalimo community. We were all marking the official start of construction at Limalimo Lodge, and everyone was very excited.
Economic and social benefits for people local to conservation areas are as important to AWF’s work as protecting habitats. In fact, it can be said that they are inextricable. For, when landscape residents lack sustainable livelihood opportunities, they fall back on the forest for nearly all their primary needs. This is even truer in areas that are remote and isolated logistically.
Life and research in the villages
As I mentioned in my last blog, the last two villages that I am surveying are Satau and Parakarungu in Botswana. As these villages are so far from Kasane where I am staying, Georginah’s (my translator) mother has kindly offered to let us stay at her house for a few days to save me doing the long drive back and forth.