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Land with a Plan: New Guide Helps Communities in East Africa

  • Thursday, January 28, 2010

MAASAI STEPPE HEARLTAND, TANZANIA--The Government of Tanzania aims for all districts, including villages, to have their own land-use plans by 2010. However, as of 2009, only about a tenth of all villages have such plans in place.

How are local communities in Tanzania as well as in other countries with similar goals going to put such plans in place to protect one of their most valuable global assets -- wildlife and its habitat?

With a lot of help from each other, and now, thanks to AWF and other partners, from a new guide entitled Sustaining Communities, Livestock and Wildlife: A Decision Support Tool, published by the Food and Agricultural (FAO) of the United Nations. Featuring six modules offering suggestions, steps, and experience to communities facing the challenges of livelihood change and co-existence with wildlife, the guide is designed to help communities and policymakers at local and national levels make informed choices regarding land use, business ventures, and public policy in pastoral areas. Reflecting examples and case studies from six different communities, the comprehensive guide stems from work by the FAO with AWF and other partners on a Global Environmental Fund project called "Novel forms of livestock and wildlife integration adjacent to protected areas in Africa - Tanzania."

"This guide is for people who live alongside wildlife and want to conserve and put these assets to work for the future," says Steven Kiruswa, Director of the Maasai Steppe Heartland. "A lot has been written about conservation by the scientific and international communities, but this guide reflects the experiences and needs of people who are making it happen in their own backyards."

One of the core modules, Mapping Our Community's Future, describes how a community can plan for the years ahead. It features exercises to include all stakeholders in designing a better way to share land and reduce conflicts over resources. The practical section concludes with five key points:

Local land-use planning can:

resolve and avoid conflict;

draw attention to, and ameliorate, inequities in land distribution between genders and between groups pursuing different livelihoods;

help communities consider new or improved methods for livelihoods;

locate chosen activities in the most appropriate land zone; and

bring communities together as they envision their shared future.

Local land-use planning works best when highly participatory -- involving all sectors of the community actively in observing trends, articulating visions, voicing concerns and making decisions. A number of participatory exercises can be useful in these efforts: from mapping to reminiscing; dreaming and visioning; to workshops and study tours.

Wide consultation can avoid inequitable decisions such as pushing livestock onto extreme lands and into areas infested with disease.

Community Action Plans can stimulate immediate action on top priorities, such as income generation or land degradation, while the community and experts stay involved in long-term planning.

Land-use planning allows people to consider new options for earning income and to seek outside help when needed.

An essential resource for policymakers, communities, and anyone interested in conservation and community development in Africa, Sustaining Communities, Livestock and Wildlife is available here.

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