Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Defense of John Cheyo and Pastoralism

By Navaya ole Ndaskoi, February 12, 2009

I listened with disgust the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Peter Pinda, answer the questions asked by John Cheyo, MP for Bariadi East in parliament on Thursday February 5, 2009.

I arrived home and found the state owned TBC1 beaming live from Dodoma. Suddenly John Cheyo, a very wise and extremely serious opposition MP, stood-up straight like an arrow. He asked the premier something to the effect that when will the Government allocate pastureland for pastoralists who are being hounded from around the country?

I doff my cap to Cheyo for asking such a legitimate but rarely asked question. Keep up the good job our John. Do not give up hope. One day Tanzania will be a fair nation.

Delicately, but hardly surprisingly, Pinda took up the microphone and said very loudly something, translated from Kiswahili to English by the author, to the effect that the Government will no longer tolerate nomads who are destroying the environment.

The Prime Minister added that the Government will deal with the pastoralists according to the laws with immediate effect. He stressed even, 'enough is enough.'

I will try, to the best of my ability, to engage the Prime Minister hoping that the Government will come out of the woods and treat pastoralists fairly.

When I went to primary school we were lectured about the environment. our teacher, out of guilty, listed the causes of soil erosion. She hardly listed two causes of erosion before hurling accusations to pastoralists and their livestock.

To be sure, too much energy has been devoted to painting out how excessive grazing by livestock, but not wild animals, has caused the country to deteriorate. Henry Fosbrooke was Chief Conservator for Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a very long time.

In 1972, he wrote the earth shattering Ngorongoro-The Eighth Wonder. He argued that one 'hears a great deal of talk about soil erosion, much of it nonsense, especially amongst those who wish to appear knowledgeable about conservation.'

Pastoralists move from one place to another. Moringe ole Parkipuny is a former MP for Ngorongoro. He says, 'They talk about the migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and others. That is wildlife transhumant paten of use of natural resources on a seasonal basis. The Maasai, like other pastoralists from around the world, are transhumant.'

'During the rainy season livestock are moved by young people to the plains where then there is plenty of lush green grasses and water. They leave the highlands fallow so that the grass can grow. At the end of the rainy season the water ponds dry out and the grass being so fragile and short would be depleted. At the end of the rainy season wildlife retreats West [of Serengeti National Park] in the woodlands where there is water in the rivers and the Maasai retreat to the Ngorongoro highlands.' Where are you Pinda?

'You said let us find a place for pastoralists to go to, where did they come from?' Pinda asked rhetorically. A lot of praises were heaped on him. You would think zombies were celebrating. By then Cheyo was literarily shaking his head in utter disbelieve.

Where did the pastoralists come from? The Sukuma, the Maasai and the Barabaigs are the main societies currently portrayed by the Pindas of this world as one of the main causes of the conflict between pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania.

It is in records that in 1959 the British colonial Government drove the Maasai out of Serengeti National Park. Prof. Issa Shivji and Dr. Wilbert Kapinga documented this in fine details in their book titled Maasai Rights in Ngorongoro, Tanzania.

Parkipuny adds that Sukuma, Barbaigs, Sonjo, Ikoma, Kurya and others were also driven out of Serengeti. The colonialists favored the Maasai, for tourism reasons, and treated other tribes as dirty. So what one reads today is that Serengeti is Maasailand alone.

Sifuni Mchome has detailed how the Maasai were forced out of Mkomazi Game Reserve. The title of his book is self explanatory, Evictions and the Rights of People in Conservation Areas in Tanzania. The Maasai were among the victims according to him. Today Mkomazi has been elevated to the status of, yet, another national park. Ah!

Colonialists left behind only Serengeti National Park. Currently there are 15 national parks. How many people lost their lands when these parks, and other conservation areas, were created may never be known. Suffice to say pastoralists are among the losers.

It should be remembered too that the Government and well-connected capitalists, local and foreign, alienated massive lands under natural pastures in the name of 'maximum utilisation by all citizens.' This is so because politicians see such lands as being wasted.

No doubts, in a perverse and masochistic sort of way, this was immensely satisfying to all concerned. Mwalimu Nyerere was an eloquent spokesman for this point of view.

Nyerere, with due respect, wrote in Freedom and Development, 'When I use my energy and talent to clear a piece of ground for my use, it is clear that I am trying to transform this basic gift from God so that it can satisfy a human need. It is true, however, that this land is not mine, but the efforts made by me in clearing the land enabled me to lay claim of ownership over the cleared piece of ground. But it is not really the land itself that belongs to me but only the cleared ground which will remain mine as long as I continue to work it. By clearing that ground I have actually added to its value and have enabled it to be used to satisfy a human need. Whoever then takes this piece of ground must pay me for adding value to it through clearing it by my…labour' [original emphasis].

This type of thinking, which is used to claim that pastoralists are wasting the land, remains a shocking performance by a man of Nyerere’s high intellectualism. What about pastoralists who depend entirely for survival on communally owned pasture lands?

In the 1980s the Tanzanian Government in collaboration with the Canadian Government started a gigantic wheat complex in Hanang at the detriment of the Barabaig pastoralists. This too is well recorded by Charles Lane in the book published in 1996 under the title Pastures Lost: Barabaig Economy, Resource Tenure, and the Alienation of Their Land in Tanzania. As I write this the Barabaigs are still struggling to get back their land.

How big is the land which was formerly pastureland that has been converted into national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, wildlife management areas, buffer zones, nesting sites, corridors, hunting blocs as well as wheat, barley and other plantations?

Even if Pinda is a rocket scientist, it sounds that he is not, common sense demands that he still should have at least a faint idea as to how the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Lake Eyasi use sticks to dig-up tubers and poisoned arrows to bring down an elephant to survive. He should have known that the Saami people of Norway, Finland and Sweden still live almost entirely on the reindeers and in fact practice transhumance.

Even Russia, the first country to send man into space, has its own nomads and hunter-gatherers in this very century. They live from the West of Russia to Siberia.

It is immaterial for the Prime Minister to emotionally speak for the hapless albinos and ending up trampling too heavily the constitution which he as recently as February 8, 2008 vowed to protect. It is alleged that Pinda shade tears for saying killers of albinos must be killed instantly to revenge before taken to court and proved guilty beyond doubt.

While the on going killings of albinos is regrettable and must be stopped it is perhaps not unlike the state-made paupers who are being hounded from Loliondo to Ihefu.

I challenge Pinda to order the Maasai, the Sukuma, the Kurya and all the others to return to Serengeti. The Barbaig must return to Basuto. Let the Pare, the Sambaa, the Maasai and all the others who were evicted from Mkomazi return to their ancestral lands.

The world will soon see what Pinda is made of.

Contacts: +255 754 453 192/navayand@gmail.com


Anonymous February 16, 2009 at 3:57 PM  

The message is very clear, our leaders should Engage their Brain, before they Engage their Mouth.
When you compare Pinda reactionAlbino killings and the Maasai pasturalist, you end wondering, How can the same fountain give 'Sweet' and 'Bitter' Water?

Anonymous February 25, 2009 at 12:43 PM  

It is disgusting how pastoralists are being treated in Morogoro and many other parts of this country, and it seems no body cares! few are raising alarm but many are just watching as if it is a football game and something to be proud of!

Little do they remember that after pastoralists the next are peasants themselves the very people that the govt is pretending to protect! we know their mission is to acquire land for investors in the pretext of Morogoro being the bread basket of Tanzania!

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