The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network, Breaking News Tanzania

Game of Thorns: Mto-wa-Mbu’s Outdated Game Controlled Area Status, Stabs Tourism

The Mto-wa-Mbu Status as a Game Controlled Area hangs on limbo as human activities take over, killing slowly the former pristine wildlife-filled precinct.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Francis Michael admits that the government was indeed reviewing statuses of some of the reserved areas, including Mto-wa-Mbu GCA to see if they will continue to be graded as such or be relieved from the prominence.

A thorny issue

But there are tourist properties in the area that continue to pay hefty sums of money in form of Game Controlled Area (GCA) charges, despite the lack of the said ‘game’ in this case, wildlife.

The additional USD 30 imposed on guests and visitors at their lodges and campsite adds charges to tourists who reportedly complain of not getting their value of money as the area is no longer the reserved precinct it was when the Game Controlled Status was given in 1974.

A number of visitor prefer the cheaper facility in Karatu, just a stone-throw away on the other side of Lake Manyara, where such fees do not apply, plus the area is still pristine there.

Investors lament the encroaching human settlements, mass cattle grazing, extended farms, noisy motorcycles and commercial vehicles that have turned the former reserve into an overcrowded and unplanned residential precinct.

Game Controlled Area? Maybe Not

Frank Benard Mbuya, the Operations Manager for the Manyara Wildlife Safari Camp, says demanding USD 30 per guest, as additional charges of venturing into Mto-wa-Mbu GCA, is proving to be too much for foreign tourists who have already paid their way to Tanzania.

Charges sucks the industry like the Mosquitoes ‘Mto-wa-Mbu’ is named after

Between December 2021 and January 2022, the Tanzania National Parks and the Tanzania Wildlife Authority truck-lifted all wildlife from Mto-wa-Mbu Game Controlled area moving them to Tarangire National Park.

The mostly Zebra and Wildebeests species were apparently in conflict with people who have moved into the location, setting up permanent residences on the shores of Lake Manyara.

At least 350 wildebeests and over 200 zebras, as well as a few antelopes, were displaced from their usual feeding areas following heavy rains of late 2019 to early 2020 that filled Lake Manyara, causing it to expand and stretch five kilometers outwards. Various species of wildlife shifted to the Mto wa Mbu Game Controlled Area, raising the usual problem of human-wildlife Conflict.

But despite the absence of wildlife, GCA charges remain. Village fees also apply. Not to mention a string of other industry related costs.

“Without wildlife, tourists no longer find this place attractive. And without wildlife there is no need to impost such charges. In fact, a number of camps and lodges have closed down as there is no business,” added Mbuya.

“What we did last summer!”

The Lodge Manager pointed out that, unless something is done, more properties will go out of business, affecting people who are employed in the lodges or local farmers and traders who supply provisions

“Travel agents who rake the areas looking for suitable alternative places to take tourists find the Mto-wa-Mbu GCA as an overcrowded, badly polluted location unsuitable for leisure excursions,” puts in Charles Pelly, the Operations Manager at Manyara’s Secret.

His views are reflected by George Daniel, of the Mto wa Mbu Cultural Tourism entity who admits that business has fallen.

“Tourists prefer to proceed onto the other side of Lake Manyara falling onto the Karatu District side, where the area is still pristine and there are no extra charges,” says Daniel.

Mto-wa-Mbu GCA used to be a popular destination for walking safaris, biking and horse riding as well as canoeing around Lake Manyara.

Also, during the good old days of pristine areas filled with wildlife, the lodge provided serene and tranquility gateways but alas! This is no longer the case.

“Let’s estimate this Game Control area map is 20 years old, has TAWA ever thought of checking and remapping Mto Wa Mbu Game control Area? Today Mto Wa Mbu is no more a Village that it uses to be 20 years ago, Mto Wa Mbu has turned into a little Township, has TAWA looked in to this issue?”

Investors at Mto-wa-Mbu

Maarten Breukink is the Director of Manyara’s Secret a Dutch hospitality investment in Mto-wa-Mbu.

Paradise Lost?

Breukink, while admitting the importance of wildlife conservation, is also on view that there is a need to review the Mto-wa-Mbu Game Controlled Area Status.

With absence of animals and invasion of myriad of human activities, the precinct no longer qualifies for such GCA prestige.

A recent visit to Mto-wa-Mbu Game Controlled Area, the Tanzania Times witnessed a mushroom of human settlements, overgrowing farms, cattle grazing patches, mining activities and flourishing local businesses.

That’s without mentioning flea markets, auction marts and noisy movements of motorcycles, cars and heavy trucks.

Abraham Thomas tour Guide Mto-wa-Mbu who is guide for activities conducted under the local cultural tourism programs admit that things are getting worse.

“Top up fees charged by the Tanzania Wildlife Authority in an area without wildlife, make costs higher than the entry fees into the adjacent Lake Manyara National Park,” he says.

What investors lament about the dying game controlled area with its frequently resurrecting charges

Today Mnada wa Zamani is no more a small place, It’s a Village with over 3000 residence..”

“We have tittle deeds from the Government of Tanzania and beckons marking our property, If this was MTGCA (Mto Wa Mbu game Controlled Area) , we with our campsite properties would not be having  tittles deeds.

We would  have leased the land that we have  from MGCA , just like the hunting companies do with the hunting blocks

Mto Wa Mbu is Game Controlled area, they why is Mnada wa Zamani becoming deforested very fast? What has TAWA done to prevent this deforestation. Have they looked into this issue?

Here is a question for MGCA, as we all know from Arusha to Mto Wa Mbu there are no pit stops, now if a client wants to use a bath room and the closes place is the camps at Mnada wa Zamani.  So, this means the client will have to pay USD 10.00 just to go to the bathroom

Many of our camps offer Tea, lunch and sometimes dinner as our food is traditional and good food. So, this means that the clients will have to pay USD 10.00 to have a snack, Tea or Coffee and Lunch, or to have a drink at camp or to have dinner?

We are charging minimum charges accommodation and food that does not excide USD 10.00 in total, today you as asking us that TAWA (Mto Wa Mbu Game Control Area) is asking USD 30.00 plus VAT charged at 18 percent that come to USD 35.40 to be paid to TAWA

USD 35.40 at this rate we are better off closing the camp and using the campsite in our Conservation Area and National Parks located just 2.5 kilometers away.”

The Tanzania Times managed to contact one of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) Officials:

“The Mto-wa-Mbu issue is cross-cutting one; a policy based affair involving more than one Ministry,” he states.

“While the Game Controlled Area status was issued in 1974, it still applies, despite recent changes in land-use. On the other hand, the settlements cropping up in the GCA have been gazetted under the Ministry of Local Government through the Ministry of Land and Settlement … It thus means all the three ministries and their respective Ministers need to sit together and address the matter together!”

Mto-wa-Mbu: Between a Hut and taxes that Hurt
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