Monday, 1 April 2013


by Susanna Nordlund

Survival International article
The Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki, announced on 26 March 2013 that 1,500 km2 of land will be taken from the people of Loliondo. The grabbing of this corridor of dry season grazing land bordering Serengeti National Park will destroy the lives and livelihoods of the Maasai pastoralist landowners.

They government claims that this decision has been taken to protect wildlife and water catchments. The minister has warned that “There will be no compromise with regard to any attempt to infringe the newly established boundaries.” At the same time the public is being misled into believing that the state is doing the Maasai of Ngorongoro District and Loliondo and Sale Divisions a favour by giving them the 2,500 km2 of Loliondo Game Controlled Area (GCA) that it hasn’t taken.

The reality is that the GCA was previously an area in which only hunting rights had been given away, while other land uses were allowed to continue. It has been managed as customary Maasai land for as long as anyone can remember, and belongs to eight villages under the provisions of the Village Land Act No 5 of 1999. However, the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 restricted livestock keeping and other agricultural activities on GCAs, and deemed that they could not overlap with village land. This protected area “upgrading” was concealed by retaining the old designation, but its very real consequences can be seen in what is now happening in Loliondo.

The location of Loliondo (source: Tanzania Natural Resource Forum)
In typical fashion the government is blaming resistance to this blatant land grab on mythical “NGOs” and “Kenyans” that are stirring up conflict.

Pastoral production is not incompatible with the conservation of wildlife; ironically it was the richness of wildlife on traditional rangelands that led to their loss to the Maasai when Serengeti National Park was created in 1959. Pastoralists in the neighbouring Ngorongoro Conservation Area are living under strict restrictions and have, against promises given when being moved from Serengeti, lost further grazing lands. The government, hunting companies, and so-called “non-consumptive” tourism continually seek ways to grab more Maasai land – like the Boston-based Thomson Safaris that is treating 12,617 acres of grazing land as a private nature refuge, calling this “community-based conservation”. The Maasai can just not afford to lose another square inch of land.

It’s probably no accident that the 1,500km2 corridor of land that is being taken is also the core hunting area of the Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) – an outfit that organises hunting safaris for royalty from the United Arab Emirates. In a corruption scandal in 1992 that is still remembered as “Loliondogate”, OBC was given Loliondo GCA as a hunting block. Although this deal didn’t transfer land ownership, OBC have often behaved like lords of the land and have been backed by the government in resulting conflicts with the Maasai.

The Avaaz petition
The worst incident occurred in 2009 during a severe drought when people and livestock were evicted by force from the corridor of land by the Tanzanian authorities assisted by OBC. Houses were burned down and many cattle were lost, while one young girl disappeared in the chaos and has never been found. The evicted Maasai eventually moved back and many leaders “reconciled” with OBC, creating a generational rift when young people questioned their reasons for doing so.

On 25 March this year, when it was evident that the land grab was about to be announced, thousands of people attended a public meeting in Oloipiri at which it was declared that the local MP and other political leaders would resign in protest, that all contracts with OBC would be terminated, and legal proceedings initiated with an injunction against the grab and an attempt to reclaim the lost lands of the Serengeti. On Tuesday 2 April another big meeting is planned in Wasso, at which people will respond to the announcement that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has since made.

Anyone who in any way can help the people of Loliondo in this struggle is kindly asked to do so as soon as possible.


Survival International are standing up for the Maasai –

Avaaz are helping in their own way –

Jason Patinkin of the Guardian has written the following report –

Article in The Guardian (London)
For further reading and viewing:

Author’s blog post from 23 March with subsequent updates:

Press release from Onesmo Olengurumwa of JUWASAWINGO

A blog post from 2011 with the history of the corridor and OBC:

Also from 2011, voices from Loliondo about land use in the "wildlife corridor":

News item on ITV Tanzania about protests against the beacons of TANAPA on village land:

And a call for help on the official blog of Ololosokwan: