Administrator Helen Clark Visits Ruaha National Park
Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator visited Ruaha National Park in Iringa, where UNDP is supporting the Strengthening the Protected Area Network in Southern Tanzania (SPANEST) project focused on improving the effectiveness of national parks in addressing threats to biodiversity. The aim of the visit was to observe on the ground results of UNDP’s support to the park and provide the Administrator a chance to meet with community members representing 21 villages involved in wildlife management (MBOMIPA) adjacent to the Ruaha National Park. This was an opportunity for her to listen to the communities’ experiences and management challenges on wildlife conservation and management.
The SPANEST is a five year project under the leadership of the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) designed to lift the barriers to establishment of a landscape approach to the management of biodiversity. The project aims to increase the effectiveness of the National Parks in protecting biodiversity and provide for the long-term ecological, social and financial sustainability of that system.
Through UNDP’s technical and financial support, the project undertook a census that showed a notable decline in elephant populations in the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, falling from 31,625 elephants in 2009 to 20,090 in 2013. The project therefore initiated a number of actions to support the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in the development of a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, and the provision of basic infrastructure and equipment for the functioning and management of the parks. With the equipment provided under the project, the park management has started improvement of road infrastructure by opening up access to the extension area of Usangu and subsequent access to Mbeya and Njombe. This will open the Usangu area for enhanced tourism opportunities, security, as well as facilitating regular park patrols.
During discussions with TANAPA officials, the Administrator emphasised that UNDP has a role to play and would continue to support Tanzania in building capacity for its national efforts to combat wildlife crime and the advancement of conservation. “Multilateral institutions like UNDP need to work with countries to change the cost-benefit calculus for conservation within communities in tangible terms, through community-based natural resource management, and income generating activities”.
Ruaha National Park is one of Tanzania’s wilderness areas where one can have a rare experience of game viewing and fascinating landscape. The park possesses rare plants and animals and boasts an almost untouched and unexplored ecosystem.