Pastoralists normally require large areas to move their livestock according to seasons, ecology and weather changes. In some areas where the livestock population exceeds the resources, it oft stunts plant growth through trampling while reducing reproduction ability and generally negatively affecting pasture.
As a result, pastoralists relocate in search of better fodder and water supply in areas such as forest reserves including mangroves. Inevitably, conflict arises between pastoralists and other stakeholders including the indigenous communities, government authorities and conservationists.
According to studies, the number of livestock in Kibiti and Rufiji districts in the Delta has traditionally been low. Pastoralism was introduced in Rufiji over a decade ago after herdsmen were evicted by the Government from Mbeya region in Western Tanzania. In recent years, however, the livestock found in the Delta is largely owned by four communities originally from various parts of the country. The search for pasture and water during the dry August-September season, compounded by a myth on the powers of mangrove trees, makes the herdsmen drive their cattle into Rufiji.
The current cattle population, in tens of thousands, has already surpassed the normal carrying capacity in most areas. And with the growing population of both human and livestock in the two districts, tension and conflicts have predictably been on the rise.
It is against this background that various stakeholders were recently brought together with the aim of mitigating the conflict and seeking peaceful solutions to stop livestock incursions in the mangrove areas. Those involved were local government authorities and leaders, pastoralist representatives, Tanzania Forest Services and Wetlands International. Under the leadership of the Kibiti District Commissioner Gulam Hussein Shaban Kifu, discussions were conducted on the extent of the challenge and the need to protect the mangroves.
Various resolutions such raising awareness and outreach efforts geared specifically for the pastoralist communities were made. The key stakeholders will implement the resolutions in the coming months with the hope that the conflict will ease to allow the mangroves thrive.