Activists and human rights stakeholders have condemned the ongoing situation in pastoral areas, especially Loliondo and Ngorongoro, where a significant number of livestock belonging to pastoral communities are confiscated on the grounds of encroachment into conservation areas.
On November 8, 2023, activists from 16 organizations said that in many cases pastoralists have encountered unlawful forfeiture of their livestock. They accused conservation officials of violating the basic rights of pastoralists in these exercises and also in some cases taking livestock from village land.
The government has been conducting various operations aimed at preventing herders from bringing livestock into conservation areas, which constitute approximately 32.5 percent of Tanzania’s total land area. According to the Economic Survey 2022, the government reportedly seized 30,030 livestock in 2022.
Herders, activists, and other stakeholders have continued to complain that many of the confiscation exercises are unjust, with some describing them as a project to impoverish pastoral communities in the country.
Controversial seizure and auction of 1,000 livestock
One of the incidents that sparked significant complaints from the pastoral communities was the seizure and auctioning of 1,026 livestock including 806 cattle, 120 sheep, and 100 goats which happened on November 01, 2023.
Speaking in Parliament on November 9, 2023, Ngorongoro Member of Parliament (Chama cha Mapinduzi – CCM) Emmanuel Ole Shangai highlighted several controversial aspects of the incident.
One point of contention was the claim that TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks Authority) officers went inside the villages to take the cattle that were grazing on village land.
“The cattle were seized on the 26th of October in an area called Orkimbai, Kisalo village,” explained Ole Shangai. He further stated that these officers placed the five herders under arrest, and moved the cattle to Olobo, inside the Serengeti National Park.
Despite the controversy over whether the livestock were within the conservation area or not, Ole Shangai’s report indicated that 757 livestock were missing from the auctioned lot. According to him, the total number of livestock was 1,783: 460 cattle owned by the Oloomukrusas; 573 cattle owned by the Sinjorematika family, and 750 goats and sheep owned by the Ndagusakooros family.
Another point of contention was the secrecy and haste surrounding the case. Despite the owner’s efforts in trying to locate the seized livestock, they were not involved, leading to the auctioning of livestock on the auspices that the owners of the livestock were not known.
The auction happened while all government levels were already informed of the efforts that owners of the livestock were undertaking in trying to recover their possessions. Speaking on November 12, 2023, in a community gathering to help villagers affected, the Chairperson of Mondorosi village, Joshua Maakoo, said that they even tried to have the court stop the auction, but the court order was ignored.
“On October 30th, 2023, we received information that livestock cases had been filed in Musoma. Upon arriving at Musoma High Court, we met with park authorities and a state attorney outside the court. They informed us that there was no case there,” said Maakoo
“However, we later learned that the order to confiscate the livestock had already been issued. We successfully applied for a court stop order, but it was ignored by the auctioneers. We have evidence that some of the livestock were sold days before the auction and court order,” added Maakoo.
Responding to the MP’s concerns, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Angellah Kairuki, said that the matter was resolved through a court decision and that the government earned Sh. 166,264,000 Tanzanian Shillings from the sale of the auctioned livestock.
“On November 1, the Court directed the court’s broker to conduct a public auction of the livestock as per the procedures outlined in our Wildlife Act of 2009 and our National Parks Act,” clarified Kairuki in her parliament response on November 9, 2023. In further clarification on November 10, 2023, Kairuki stated that the ministry decided to investigate the matter to verify the point of contention raised by the member of parliament.
The families that were affected by the auction have appealed to the government to place them under a government subsidy program, as they have returned to an abject poverty.
“We have over 107 children in our families, we now have nothing to give them, our lives have been severely hampered,” said Amani Lengume, a member from one of the families affected.
Controversy in Loliondo
One area that continues to generate controversy, leaving many community members in a constant state of uncertainty, is a section of land in the Loliondo district, an area initially declared a game-controlled area, then changed to a game reserve.
This area was initially designated as Pololeti Game Controlled area in June 2022, through a government notice Number 421 of 2022 by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, However, on October 14, 2022, the area was announced as Pololeti Game Reserve through another government notice, subsequently declared by the President.
The area was historically part of the village land and it has been critical land to villagers, especially during times of drought. In response to the government’s formation of a new game-controlled area, several villagers went to court against government notices.
The court decision showed that the creation of the game-controlled area did not follow the law and the court directed the suspension of the game-controlled area notice. Due to this court order, citizens believe they have the right to use the area, nevertheless government has continued to seize their livestock.
One resident of Loliondo, Latajewo Sayori, who participated in the lawsuit, claims that the authorities, specifically the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), have disregarded the court’s decisions.
“The authorities in charge of that area, namely NCAA, have been violating and disregarding the court’s decisions,” said Sayori at a press conference. “[NCAA] has been seizing livestock since October 4, 2023, after the court order.”
“As we speak, the village of Olesosokwan has had around 754 cattle confiscated, and in the Arash ward, 327 cattle, along with 645 sheep and goats, have been seized,” Sayori further explained.
Due to this uncertain situation, villagers have complained that they are being impoverished and made vulnerable through ongoing confiscations.
“Our livelihoods depend on livestock,” added another villager, Kaiyayo Siringeti, in the press conference. “We are now suffering as we cannot get any food, as we depend on the sale of this livestock to buy food.”
This livestock forfeiture situation has been protested by pastoralist communities in various areas of the country, including Lindi, Mbarali, and Tarime. However, the government has maintained the aim of the ongoing operations is to protect Tanzania’s natural resources and biodiversity