Dar es Salaam. A senior lecturer with the Tumaini University Makumira Dr Elifuraha Laltaika has been selected as the winner of this year’s Svitlana Kravchenko Environmental Rights Award for his “broad impacts in the law while working to support local communities.”
Dr Laltaika, who also serves as the director of research and consultancy of the Arusha-based higher learning institution, becomes the eighth person to win the award since its launching and the only African scholar to have ever been nominated for it.
Named after a Ukrainian law professor Svitlana Kravchenko, who subsequently became a US citizen, the award honours scholars from across the world who display “exquisite qualities of both head and heart, mixing academic rigour with spirited activism, and speaking truth to power, while exhibiting kindness towards all.”
It is organised by students at the University of Oregon’s Environmental and Natural Resources Program and Dr Laltaika will receive the award during the 40th virtual annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), considered the largest environmental conference in the world.
Reacting to the news during an exclusive interview with The Chanzo, Dr Laltaika, who has been working for fifteen years around activism for the protection of rural livelihoods for pastoralists and hunter-gathers in Tanzania, said he was “humbled” by the decision of the award committee.
“It’s a profound honour for me to join highly distinguished past recipients who have made tremendous contributions to protecting the environment and community rights,” said Dr Laltaika who has trained high court judges and practising lawyers on the local community’s natural resources rights.
Dr Laltaika also said he feels humbled to be associated with Prof Kravchenko’s work whose academic contribution to the intersection of human rights and the environment he described as “still so insightful.”
While sharing his perspectives on the status of the local communities’ natural resources rights in Tanzania in the wake of an eviction threat against the Maasai of Ngorongoro, Dr Laltaika, who in 2016 served as a Harvard Law School Visiting Researcher to examine community rights in extractive resources under international law, said all is not well on the ground.
A long way to go
“We have a long way to go until we are finally able to convince [Tanzanian] policymakers about modern conservation practices that must embed local community rights,” says Dr Laltaika who teaches Natural Resources Law, Human Rights Law, International law and Jurisprudence/Philosophy of Law.
“Gone are days when conservation objectives must be attained by wanton violations of human rights,” urges the don who once served as a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “The Ngorongoro and Loliondo issues are towering examples.”
The issues of natural resources rights among Tanzania’s indigenous communities preoccupy Dr Laltaika’s most scholarly and activist works. He has spent several months among the Barbaig, the Akie and the Hadza communities in an effort to understand their unique vulnerabilities.
Recently, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study in South Africa engaged Dr Laltaika to propose innovative legal solutions for protecting hunter-gatherer communal land rights in Africa.