On a working tour of Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka at the weekend called on local officials and community groups to double efforts conservation for Africa’s highest mountain.
In various meetings with stakeholders including a cabinet minister, administrators and women’s groups, Mrs. Tibaijuka raised many issues concerning the mountain’s conservation ranging from protecting water catchment areas to improved working conditions for porters accompanying climbers to the top.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said environmental conservation was crucial in attaining sustainable development. Because of being a national heritage and due to the fact that it was attracting thousands of visitors each year, the Executive Director said those earning a living on the mountain, directly or indirectly, had a duty to protect it.
She said human encroachment on the mountain was posing a risk to its very survival adding that it would be a disaster not only for Tanzania but the whole world if Kilimanjaro would lose some of its luster because of to human activities.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said she appreciated the fact that most people were forced to cut down trees to use as fuel for cooking because of lack of alternatives. “But one thing we must stress is that whereas it is good for one to cut a tree to make a meal, what will happen when all the trees are gone?”
On the porters’ plight, Mrs. Tibaijuka raised concern that the amounts they were paid were very little and could therefore not cater for their needs despite the dangerous work they were involved in. She appealed to tour operators and the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) management to look into ways of solving the problem. She also said recruitment should be tightened so that only those porters with good knowledge of the mountain and good communications skills would be employed.
“These are the people with whom tourists interact and they must have good knowledge of the culture and history of the place so that they give the visitors the correct information which they can share back home and attract more visitors,” she said.
On a visit to the nearby Usangi Mountains, Mrs. Tibaijuka challenged the area member of parliament and who is also the Minister for Labour, Employment and Youth Development, Mr. Jumanne Magembe to be in the frontline of conserving the ranges, which were also threatened with destruction. Mrs. Tibaijuka also toured the Holy Spirit Community where Catholic nuns provide training on rainwater harvesting skills. Located on the leeward side of Mount Kilimanjaro, the area suffers acute water problems.
The project is funded by UNDP’s COMPACT initiative and according to the coordinator, Ms. Victoria Ndenimaki, most of those who have participated in their programmes were making positive changes in their communities.
Mrs. Tibaijuka congratulated local women’s groups for the great strides they had made towards achieving empowerment of rural women.
“Use your positions to positively influence fellow women in your communities. It is a long journey but you have the will and you can make it,” said the Executive Director who is also an official of Tanzania’s national women’s body, BAWATA.