This Consortium alert involves Uvinje, a small, coastal sub-village of Saadani Village, north of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. The residents of Uvinje face forced eviction from their land and homes because the Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) has redrawn its boundary lines and unilaterally gazetted Uvinje’s present and ancestral lands to extend the coverage of Saadani National Park.
In 1965, the Saadani village leaders themselves approached the Director of Wildlife to request support to protect local wildlife that was being indiscriminately hunted by outsiders. The Saadani Game Reserve (SGR) was created, and officially gazetted by the Wildlife Division in 1974. The community thus voluntarily contributed over 66% of their original lands to the Reserve, including voluntarily vacating some smaller sub-villages, close to the better rangelands where wildlife found important habitats. In exchange, the community was promised the retention in perpetuity of the coastal areas where their main villages, including Uvinje, are situated. In the 1990s, without involving or consulting the local communities, TANAPA redrew the boundaries of the Saadani Game Reserve to include the totality of the Uvinje and Porokanya sub-villages and a portion of the remaining Saadani village lands.
In 2006, an official investigation by the Commissioner of Bagamoyo District and the Regional Commissioner of the Coastal Region into the status of the village lands ruled firmly in favour of the villagers. In late 2011, however, TANAPA and a new Bagamoyo District Commissioner insisted that the villagers were to relocate. In June 2014 government officials and policemen attempted to start the expropriation of the Uvinje community’s lands. There have also been attempts to persuade Uvinje villagers to accept compensation, which legitimate members of the community have steadfastly rejected. Now, recent independent research set out the full history of the status of the lands in question, including expert spatial analysis of relevant maps and boundary descriptions.
Despite the decision by TANAPA to alter the recorded boundaries of the Saadani Game reserve, the villagers of Uvinje remain the legal owners of the village lands in question, for which they have for a long time proven to be diligent custodians, able to respect and manage wildlife whilst remaining in situ. The Consortium is appealing to the top national authorities in Tanzania to cancel the proposed eviction of Sadaani villagers from Uvinje. In our letter of August 20 2014, we stress that, as of 2012:
• no fewer than 1,233 villages in Tanzania have brought 2.366 million hectares of woodland and forest and comparable natural flora areas under protection as village owned and managed reserves;
• a further 5.392 million hectares of National and Local Authority Reserves are managed by communities under the technical guidance of local and national forest authorities; and
• more than 3% of the country’s land area is under 38 Wildlife Management Areas— communal lands set aside by 148 villages exclusively as habitat for wildlife, engaging active contributions to conservation by more than 440,000 people.
The Consortium appeals for amicable dialogue between State and the villagers of Uvinje and the seeking of a mutual agreement possibly via one of the many constructive options that exist, in Tanzania, to secure and conserve village land and natural resources.
Here is the letter sent in by the Consortium: Letter from ICCA Consortium about Uvinje
And here are the explanatory annexes:
Annex 4. Letter from the Bagamoyo District Commissioner to the Head of the Saadani National Park. December 1, 2006. This letter addressed to TANAPA describes the Regional Commissioner’s orders that Uvinje residents should not be moved and that their land rights should be reinstated.
Annex 6. Independent Research: Case Study Report: Uvinje Village & the Saadani National Park Tanzania, May 2014, Alejandra Orozco, Coastal Resource Analysis Lab, University of Victoria; and Environmental Evaluation For Tourism Development in the Saadani Game Reserve, February 1997, Institute of Resource Assessment, UDSM, commissioned by the Wildlife Division and the Ministry of Natural Resources & Tourism.
Follow and support the Uvinje struggle for their rights in their facebook page!
You can also visit the Just Conservation.org blog on the case.
Everyone can be involved at a personal level by signing this petition: “Reinstate land rights of Uvinje village”
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