Community conservation efforts are entering another phase which now involves financial institutions chipping in to bankroll environment friendly economic activities.
These are income generating ventures being undertaken by villagers living adjacent to wildlife corridors and other natural resources needing community participation for their protection.
The CRDB Bank, through its new ‘Imbeju,’ Program will now be providing interest free loans and extend unsecured credit facilities to community groups undertaking income generating activities in villages located next to Wildlife Corridors.
For starters beneficiaries are residents of areas striding wildlife corridors linking Tarangire and the Lake Manyara National Park through the Manyara Wildlife Ranch will soon be empowered financially to hatch economic ventures that will save the connectivity route from destruction.
This comes after the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its ‘Tuhifadhi Maliasili,’ project, expedited a special forum which brought together the CRDB Bank’s Northern Zone officials and representatives of more than 20 community groups in Arusha and Manyara Regions.
The aim was to ensure that local community groups get financial support to facilitate environment friendly income generating ventures that will boost local economy and protect wildlife and natural resources in the process.
“Some of the environment destructive activities, including illegal logging, charcoal burning and even poaching occur when people are striving to generate income through whichever means possible,” explained Dr Elikana Kalumanga Ngallaba the Private Sector Engagement Manager of USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Activity.
According to Dr Kalumanga, when local communities get empowered to come up with economic enterprises, it becomes easier for them to ditch environmentally destructive habits.
“And to make their ventures more sustainable, we are now linking them to financial institutions for them to secure manageable loans and capitals,” he added.
On his part, the Manager of Randilen Wildlife Management Area (WMA) which operates in Monduli District, Meshurie Melembuki said conservation is business because it is what boosts tourism activities in the Northern Zone.
“All we have to do is empower our people to be able to tap into the potential by starting businesses that will enable them to supply meat, milk and vegetables to tourist hotels, lodges and campsites in the precinct,” he added.
Melembuki, a resident of Mswakini, believes that villagers living near game parks, reserves and wildlife corridors are potentially bankable as their economic ventures have ready markets.
The Communications Manager of CRDB Bank in the Northern Zone, Erasmi Riziki said the ‘Imbeju’ program which targets to empower women and youth with capital and other headache free financial support.
“Imbeju stands for ‘Seeds of Innovation,’ and it is the first and only community supporting scheme of this kind in East Africa, which guarantees collateral free and interest free loans, to support young people and women,” he said.
Through the program, groups and individuals can secure condition-free financial support of between 200,000/- and up to 5 million/- with a payback period of 36 months or essentially three years.
Muna Michael is the Project Coordinator of Asilia Giving which is the humanitarian arm of Asilia Africa.
Asilia Giving supports seven community groups, each with more than 20 members, along the Kwakuchinja Wildlife Corridor who also lauds the initiative.
“Once villagers get alternative income generating activities and financial support to run them, the pressure being exerted by human activities in wildlife corridors becomes less and less,” he stated.
Michael says cases of deforestation for burning charcoal, chopping firewood or extracting timber are notorious in conserved areas and they threaten connectivity between National Parks and Game Reserves.
Other environment obliteration ventures in the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem include destructive fishing activities at Lake Burunge and Lake Manyara.