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A heartless business plan

world Updated: Apr 15, 2013 01:04 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
Bharati Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times
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The Masai are amongst the oldest tribes in East Africa. You’ll find them in Tanzania and Kenya, often near rich wildlife destinations, such as Kenya’s Masai Mara. But the plentiful tourism may be a resource curse for this group. The Masai on the Tanzanian-Kenyan border fear they will be thrown out of their lands to make way for high-end big game hunting by tourists, a sport I find repulsive.

The plan sounds like a resource curse, because the Masai are largely forced to live in squalor. If you look at the Masai dwellings even near wildlife tourism hotspots, their living conditions are appalling. True, some are guides in the wildlife industry, but most are still far from this. Rather than use the wildlife resource to address their needs, the Tanzanian government is further marginalizing the Masai.

It may also be marginalizing the wildlife, because the specific region of conflict is part of the Masai-Mara, Serengeti eco-system. The world famous wildebeest migration includes a time in November then the creatures calve right here in November. By creating human conflict, pressure on land and other linked resources increases as displaced persons struggle to feed themselves and desperately turn to whatever resources they can lay their hands on.

What will the ecological and social impact be? We can’t predict much, except that while tourism is becoming more responsible in many parts of the world, in Tanzania, it is clearly the opposite. The real hunted here are the Masai.