Anti-poaching, Community Development, Research & GIS Mapping – Tanzania

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Update on FCF’s Village Community Bank Project

Background on the VICOBA

The VICOBA project was originally inspired from FCF’s increased focus on programs which have a direct link to conservation and facilitate local empowerment. In mid-2009, FCF started this new program to establish Village Community Banks (VICOBAs) in 6 communities near the Moyowosi Game Reserves.

VICOBAs are savings and microfinance groups that target low-income community members to encourage saving and provide access to microloans for small enterprise development.

In rural Tanzania, there are few individuals that have access to formal credit or that are able to save for the future. Rural communities rely on savings in the form of food crops and livestock that they often have to sell to meet their needs. Consequently, providing a safe structure that encourages saving and providing access to microloans are both very important to the financial security and economic empowerment of rural Tanzanians.

The concept of VICOBA savings and credit groups has developed out of the microfinance movement.  This concept has proved to be a highly successful tool for empowerment and poverty alleviation as well as a forum for environmental advocacy and eco-friendly enterprise initiatives. The VICOBA system provides an opportunity and a support structure that fosters self-help initiatives that encourage the poor to break out of the cycle of poverty by utilizing their own resources.

VICOBA groups are comprised of approximately 20 to 40 community members who voluntarily join. Though the program is open to all community members, the target participants are those that are struggling financially and would not otherwise be able to save or access credit from the formal banking sector.

VICOBA members meet weekly to buy shares in the community bank. Members decide on a share value, usually around $1, and each member is permitted to buy up to three shares each week.  As the collection of funds grow, the group starts to disburse small, short-term loans to its members for the purpose of strengthening small enterprises.

In the VICOBA system, there are strict rules and procedures and a very strong ethic of discipline.  This structure helps to ensure the transparency and accountability of the system. The checks and balances procedures help to ensure that it is virtually impossible for funds to be misused.

Update on VICOBAs from FCF’s Community Development Manager

During his recent travel to the Moyowosi and Ugalla areas, FCF’s Community Development Manager, Elliot Kinsey, had the chance to visit several of the VICOBAs that FCF helped to establish. FCF is particularly excited and encouraged about this project because it is having impressive impacts in the lives of individual community members across these areas.

The groups have grown impressively independent of any external financial assistance and several are circulating over $6,000 in microloans to their members. FCF is continuing to support the groups through technical guidance and training and we are looking for ways to build capacity and encourage growth. In the coming years, we hope to expand the program in additional areas.

 

Kinsey was delighted to find that the VICOBA groups continue to do very well without much guidance from FCF and that the members continue to be excited by the benefits they receive. Kinsey was particularly inspired by the stories of the individual men and women that have benefited from the establishment of the VICOBAs.  Prior to the establishment of the VICOBAs, several individuals were never able to save any money.  Now, these same people are saving money each week. They also have access to loans which have enabled them to build houses, send their kids to school, and increase their small business running capital from less than $10-100 up to and over $1000.  The VICOBA system is truly proving to be an instrument of change for those who choose to join and participate in the program.

The VICOBAs have also helped to raise awareness about the benefits of conservation.  Prior to the establishment of the VICOBAs, many communities only knew of FCF’s anti-poaching and law enforcement activities.  FCF’s involvement in the establishment of the VICOBAs is helping to establish new positive perceptions between the communities and FCF.

We look forward to sharing more updates on this program very soon!

Strides in the fight against poaching!

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In early February, Godson Laizer took up his new post as acting FCF concession manager. Though Ugalla is notorious in the rainy season for being mostly inaccessible, Godson and his anti-poaching teams managed to reach the Ugalla River. Their patrols centered along the river and the Game Reserve boundary. Many signs of illegal activities, primarily illegal fishing and hard wood timber harvesting, were observed.

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Despite continuous rain and challenging conditions, their daily patrols resulted in the arrest of eight illegal fishermen, two timber poachers and one meat poacher with his firearm. The meat poacher had shot a giraffe and was smoke-curing the meat.

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The timber-related arrest proved to be significant as the two suspects arrested were an advance party for a large timber poaching ring. They had several months worth of food rations and supplies for the whole group which were duly confiscated.

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This will mean a major financial and logistical set-back for the ring. On-going investigations should hopefully yield further arrests. Good work Godson and team!

 

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In other news with our anti-poaching leader, Keith Roberts is heading off to Maswa and Mwiba to visit the anti-poaching teams and consider some suggested changes. While in Maswa, he will visit the microlight base to inspect the improvements made on the hanger and accommodations. Judging from recent field reports, it is very wet which means getting covered in mud while digging vehicles out will be guaranteed. Just to think folks are willing to pay BIG money to have a spa cover them in mud, while anti-poaching patrol does the same for free and it has the added bonus of doing something that matters!

Asante Sana!

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The Mwiba Makao Community Center

We would like to share an overview of a very exciting new project!

Mwiba Wildlife Reserve (MWR), technically a game ranch, is managed by Ker & Downey Tanzania (KDT) and supported by the Friedkin Conservation Fund (FCF). It borders a rural village, from which the land is leased, called Makao. Makao is situated between several conservation areas, including MWR, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve and Serengeti National Park. MWR employs over 50 people from Makao Village, who are mainly members of the anti-poaching team, as well as staff for the small photographic tented camp run by KDT. From the outset of MWR, one of the goals of establishing the area as a wildlife reserve/game ranch was to not only protect one of the more unique areas within the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, but also to benefit members of Makao Village.

We are planning to build the Mwiba Makao Community Center – which will be a great addition to the community, offering a place for the residents of Makao to come together and benefit from the center’s three primary functions: to facilitate early childhood development, healthcare/HIV awareness and environmental education.

A community center that addresses early childhood development, health and environmental education is desperately needed in Makao:

  • Currently, there is no early childhood development in Makao and many of the children age six and under do not receive educational stimulation. Because Makao remains an agricultural and pastoral village, parents are out doing physical labor for the majority of the day. This forces the younger residents to either entertain themselves or to enter into physical labor at quite a young age. Through a play group/nursery held several times a week, the Community Center will provide a place for these children to go, whereby they can develop skills and be exposed to learning tools such as books, paints, puzzles, music, etc.
  • Access to a medical facility and medicine is very limited. There is a doctor in Makao, but he does not always have medicine and he is not able to do blood tests, forcing many families to travel long distances to find medical care. Through HIV awareness programs and a medical services group, there will be medical care offered every two weeks, benefitting all members by providing  consistent, good quality medicine.
  • Lastly, it is crucial that the entire community understand the benefit of their environment and the wildlife and pristine ecosystems that lay on their doorstep. Because the villagers are situated in a location which is surrounded 100% by conservation areas, they will benefit hugely by realizing how best to live in congruence with wildlife, how they can benefit financially from that wildlife and how they can help to continue to preserve the gift they have been given. Twice a month there will be a film screening of an environmental or wildlife oriented movie. Mwiba Scouts will return to Makao to give presentations and “nature talks” to their community on the responsibility they have to protecting wildlife. Children will have the opportunity to come on field trips to see Mwiba, the wildlife and learn how protecting the area will provide many opportunities for them in the future.

Beyond these initial three programs that the center will support, it will also be an area in which people can come together to develop skills and knowledge that will help prepare them for jobs and markets throughout Tanzania. Potential developments for the community center include classes on micro-finance and entrepreneurial development, English lessons, a library and possibly computer programs.

The Mwiba Makao Community Center is a joint venture development project with the village, structurally and financially, which will lead to an overall improvement in the way of life for many people living in Makao. Our teamwork is ensuring that the center will be used to its utmost potential, as a multitude of community members will feel a sense of pride and ownership due to their time and effort helping with several important facets of the project!

A selection of Makao Village Council Members, as well as MWR/FCF members, are putting into place vigilant systems of funding, building and program establishment and monitoring. The funding will be primarily sourced from grants awarded to the project and facilitated through MWR and FCF, but will also come from the Makao Development Fund (MDF). The MDF is a fund which the village has access to and which is sponsored every year. Sharing the financial and managerial responsibilities is a project in and of itself, as the council members in charge of the center will develop the skills and knowledge of how to facilitate projects such as this in the future.

The Community Center building will be an eco-friendly building, made of earthbags. Earthbag building minimizes the use of concrete and other unnatural substances and is relatively inexpensive. Up to 15 members of Makao will assist in the building of the center and we hope to see those who help construct the building teaching others from Makao how to use this method.

With the village community center members, we are currently organizing plans for the site to be cleared so that building can start! We thank all those working to bring the Mwiba Makao Community Center to life and look forward to seeing how it enhances the lives of Makao residents! Photos coming soon!

Congratulations to the FCF 5000 race team!

Congrats to everyone who participated in the 5km, half-marathon and full marathon races this weekend as part of the FCF 5000 team! We had 31 people proudly wearing the FCF 5000 t-shirt on Sunday and they represented us well!

By running in the Kilimanjaro Marathon, the FCF 5000 team raised awareness of and contributed monetarily to the Friedkin Conservation Fund’s anti-poaching efforts in protecting Tanzania’s wildlife. Eighty-three generous donors helped us raise over $12,000 to assist East Africa’s most effective anti-poaching ranger corps. Many thanks for believing in what we do and supporting us in this way!

The runners would also like to thank everyone who came out to support FCF 5000 from the sidelines. Your presence and cheering injected much-appreciated spirit into the race participants!

Of the 31 race participants representing FCF 5000:

  • 13 ran or walked the 5km race
  • 10 ran the half marathon
  • 8 walked the half marathon with weighted backpacks to simulate the final step in the anti-poaching ranger selection process

The South African DSTV channel, ‘Supersport’, covered the marathon and several FCF team members were interviewed. We will post links to these interviews once they are available.

From all of us at the Friedkin Conservation Fund, thank you for your enthusiasm and generosity. Your support helps us protect the jobs of many Tanzanians that lie in the hands of the sustainability of the spectacular wildlife of their country. The race was a lot of fun and we are already looking forward to returning in 2013!

Olosiva Primary School Update

Many wonderful things have been happening at the Olosiva Primary School! FCF continues to enjoy a great partnership with this school outside of Arusha and promises to continue various projects aimed at enhancing the school infrastructure, programs, student life and surrounding community in the future.  The Olosiva children, community and FCF are excited to share some recent progress on a few of our largest endeavors…

As you will see, we have made progress towards leveling the athletic playing field, and organized soccer practice and competitions for the students. The Mzuri Wildlife Foundation assisted in making this happen. Amrin Remtulla, one of the high school students from the International School in Arusha, decided to get involved in strengthening the sports program at the Olosiva Primary School as part of her student project. She designed lesson plans and assisted the sports teacher in incorporating those plans into the Olosiva curriculum. This effort culminated in a soccer competition for the students at the Friedkin Recreation Centre in Arusha. The school and students were thrilled to participate in this first-ever tournament and, given the level of enthusiasm for the event and success of the student-led effort, we hope to make it an annual tradition for the students, teachers and community to enjoy!

The Mzuri Wildlife Foundation continues to sponsor the school lunch program, which offers each student a hot meal in the middle of the school day. To date, this program has had a tremendous impact on student attendance, academic performance and overall health. These nutritious meals are paying off in so many ways, including smiles!

FCF also just successfully completed the drilling of a borehole on the Olosiva campus, which will provide the Olosiva community, children and teachers with sustainable access to clean water.

Two generous families provided 500 book sacks for the students. The children are so grateful for this gift! Checkout Elliot’s delivery to the school, filled with lots of excitement:

In June 2011, we received a request from the school board to assist in the completion of the preschool. The kindergarten class could not accommodate the students enrolled, and the school was expanding their facilities to include a preschool classroom. The parents raised $5,612 but needed an additional $5,500 to complete the building. FCF provided a special donation of $3,000 and successfully secured the remaining balance of $2,500 from a generous donation by two families who visited the school. The Preschool at Olosiva was finally completed this week and plans to start using this facility are in the works!

In addition, FCF also secured funds for the construction of a small playground with a swing set, see-saw, slide and jungle gym (like the ones in the picture below) for the younger children and we plan to have this equipment installed very soon.

One of the challenges in the Olosivia school community is the lack of student text books and reference books. We were able to raise $1,500 to purchase books and teaching materials for the students and we plan to deliver these important tools to the school next week.

The improvements in the lives of the Olosiva Primary School students and surrounding community are encouraging. With your support, we are having a lasting impact in the Olosiva community. You can continue to follow our work with the Olosiva Primary School here. We look forward to sharing more updates and milestones in our efforts very soon. The students wish to thank the community of supporters, donors and enthusiasts who have made these enhancements to the Olosiva Primary School possible.

Asante Sana!

Big accomplishments for FCF Private Ranger

Boniphace  Haule has been in South Africa since  the beginning of October completing his microlight pilot training. Boni, as he is known on the ground, is the FCF anti-poaching Mobile Coordinator and was elected by his peers for pilot training in September.

Boni reports back to the Tanzanian FCF office, “I have managed to fly 12.5hrs solo up to yesterday. I have managed to get all my exams done and passed. The stress load is now less in my mind. Will just have to finish up with my solo cross-country for the rest of the hours (2.5hrs) which is not an issue together with the flight test.  I can say up to the moment things are back into good shape.”  In addition to flight training, Boni also completed technical maintenance training such as engine repair.

When he returns to Tanzania, he will be the only current Tanzanian microlight (trike) pilot in the country and we’re very excited to have him back!

FCF would like to congratulate Boni for his hard work and great accomplishments to become a microlight pilot – we look forward to having him back in Tanzania to help patrol the skies!  Photos below of Boni completing his pilot training both in the air and on the ground.

A close call!

Not only do poachers use automatic weapons and high powered rifles to kill elephants for the illegal ivory trade, they also use traditional methods such as poison arrows and spears.  Once an elephant is shot with a poison laced arrow, the poachers track it until it dies from the poison.  This process can take several hours up to multiple days.

A common East African shrub called the Acokanthera spp. (Common poison bush, arrow-poison tree (En). Msunguti, msungu (Sw).), is one of many readily available plants used in producing deadly poisons. The Acokanthera spp. toxins have deadly effects and there is no antidote available for humans or animals.

On September 18, 2011 the FCF anti-poaching Rapid Action Team 3 went on a night patrol in the Tei/Mwajilinga-Kimali area of Tanzania.  They saw spotlights and started tracking poachers through the dense brush.  As the FCF anti-poaching team neared, the poachers started shooting poison arrows and one arrow hit Mawazo Ichimba, an FCF anti-poaching ranger.

Luckily, the poison arrow was caught in his jacket and remarkably did not puncture his skin!  

As always, FCF would like to thank our rangers for being so dedicated.  It is this dedication that enables FCF to accomplish such important conservation work in the bush.