Tanzania’s unique park where tourists overflow over well conserved glaciers
For a tourist climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some of the breathtaking tourism attractions feature is the permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.
Strange as it may sound, some tourists and researchers walking to the roof of Africa would like to know why the white capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is just 300km from the equator, yet glaciers exist! Explains Chief Park Warden for Kilimanjaro National Park, Erastus Lufungulo.
He said under normal circumstances its location near the equator and permanent snow cover throughout the year is a wonder to many tourists because one does not expect to find glaciers on the Mountain which is just 300km from the equator where temperature is usually hot.
As a result he said there have been a big number of tourists traveling all the way from Europe, America and Africa just to see and enjoy the glaciers.
Despite this uniqueness and the role the glaciers play to attract tourists, yet increased human activities at village, district, regional, national and international level have severely affected the glaciers causing it to shrink.
The mountain forest has been subjected to logging of indigenous trees for construction purposes, charcoal, fires, mushrooming of squatters and unsustainable agriculture which has partly contributed to the receding of the glaciers.
“Unlike the past, currently, Kilimanjaro is very populated. For example, Moshi District population density stands at 240 per square km, which means there is very high demand for land,” he said.
“Warmer global temperatures, increased industrial activities and green houses effect have also partly contributed to climate change which in turn is causing the shrinking of the mountain glaciers.
According to the Chief Park Warden, glaciers depended very on the natural and conserved surrounding environment. In the past, the air moisture from the Ocean would move horizontally through the mountain forest towards the peak of the mountain.
This caused regular rains and snow that would accumulate on the mountain peaks, keeping the glaciers in its natural form.
Chairman of Kisangesangeni village, Kahe ward, Moshi District, Gerald Mlay and a villager Joyce Mushi together with residents of Marangu Arisi village near the mountain, explained that in the past the mountain forest was intact.
They said Marangu would be filled with snow and at times they would use sharp objects to rub out the snow spread on the house walls.
“It was too cold here, snow everywhere covered the thick forest, but we started experiencing drought some 20 years ago due to increased deforestation.
Currently the rains are unpredictable and in order to increase food production, one has to dig borehole for irrigation during absence of rains which is very expensive,” said Mlay .
He explained that the research findings showed that Kilimanjaro glaciers began shrinking towards the end of the 19th century-prior to the first ascent in 1889 from what was likely their greatest extent of the Holocene epoch.
He said that according to the research, the total ice covered area dropped nearly 90 percent from approximately 20km2 to 2.5km2 in 2000 over the next nine years the glacier area shrank by another 30 percent.
Satellite imagery reveals the best estimate of ice area in June 2011 to be 1.76 km2. Glacier shrinkage will almost certainly continue, and Kilimanjaro could be without glaciers within several decades.” concludes the research findings.
Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)
Commenting on the shrinking of the glaciers, Professor Clavery Tungaraza from the faculty of Science at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) who has conducted a research on the shrinking of the glaciers said that the shrinking of the glaciers is to a large extent contributed by global warming.
Warmer global temperatures, air and wind that pass through the top of the Mountain from other parts of the world have also played a big part.” he said.
Prof Tungaraza said it is a responsibility of everybody, institution, and every country to play its part in the restoration of the Mountain Glaciers.
Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG)
The Executive Director for Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) Charles Meshark said climate change is definitely responsible for the loss of glacier ice mass on Kilimanjaro.
“I believe deforestation and forest degradation at the foot of the mountain is a contributing factor to slow disappearance of glaciers of Kilimanjaro Mountain. The drivers of deforestation include harvesting timber, wildfires and livestock grazing in different areas, with total impunity,” he noted.
He said that changes in the local vegetation around Kilimanjaro, which has lost much of it’s forests, may have affected the cloudiness and amount of snow that falls on the mountain. However, scientists believe that warmer global temperatures have had a bigger impact on the rate at which its glaciers are melting.
Whatever the reasons, if Kilimanjaro is to lose its snowy top, the repercussions would be extremely serious. Kilimanjaro glaciers are essential to the survival of the local villages. They supply drinking water, water to irrigate their crops and produce hydroelectric power; never mind the blow the loss of the snow-cap would affect tourism, he said.
For his part, Former Director of Forestry and Beekeeping division of the Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism Dr Felician Kilahama said that the shrinking of the glaciers is due to global warming, which is a result of negative impacts of climate change.
Dr Kilahama said experiences show that temperatures globally have been on the rise because the atmosphere is filled with undesirable gases of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a result of increased refrigeration, air conditioning, and similar applications.
The greatest contributor of global warming is carbon dioxide generated from industrial production using fossil fuels, increased transportation activities also heavily relying on fossil fuels.
In Africa and other developing countries climate change reports indicate that most of the carbon dioxide is due to unsustainable use of natural forests.
Deforestation and forest degradation due to various human activities cause carbon dioxide emissions globally estimated to be about 23 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions.
Besides USA and other developed countries, countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa are nowadays noted to contribute significantly to carbon dioxide emissions; adding additional threats to global warming.
He suggested that there is a need to seriously regulate and stop deforestation throughout the country saying this will happen only if there shall be a strong political will.
He also said that there is a need to expand conservation efforts and the global political leaders must agree to significantly reduce Carbon dioxide emissions.
Why concerted efforts are needed to conserve the Mountain
According to the Chief Park Warden, apart from glaciers that attract tourists, Mount Kilimanjaro provides direct and indirect socio-economic and cultural values to the surrounding communities, Tanzanians, neighbouring countries like Kenya, Africa and the world at large.
The Park is endowed with diverse varieties of attractions ranging from terrestrial wilderness to permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.
The chief park warden said that there are three peaks namely Kibo, the highest peak (5,895m), which is covered by snow throughout the year, Mawenzi (5,149m) and Shira (3,962).
Being the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts visitors from all over the world said Chief Park Warden.
The number of tourists hiking Mount Kilimanjaro has been increasing in recent years although in 2013/14 the number decreased.
For example, he said that in 2009/10, the number of non residents were 41,213 where as residents were 2,974. In 2010/11 the number of non residents were 49,515 where as residents were 3181. In 2011/12 the number of non residents were 54,320 where as residents were 3,136.
He further said that in 2012/2013, the number of non residents were 51,835 where as the residents were 3,718. In 2013/2014 the number of non residents were 48,813 where as the residents were 2,021.
Provision of social services
Besides tourism attraction, the Mountain is famous water catchment for both Tanzania and Kenya. Forest belt forms the major source of water flowing from Mount Kilimanjaro.
He said that this benefits human population for domestic use, irrigation agriculture, industrial activities and for generation of hydroelectric power.
Citing an example, the Chief Park warden said that the Pangani River is one of the Tanzania’s largest rivers drains water to the hydropower plants.
He named the plants as Nyumba ya Mungu (8MW), Hale (17 MW), and Pangani falls (66 MW) which generates about 20 percent of Tanzania’s total electricity output.
He further explained that water from the forest supports traditional furrow irrigation systems for coffee and banana plantations in densely populated area with over one million inhabitants in the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
He named other benefits as conducting research studies, provision of employment to TANAPA workers, tour guides, porters, and hoteliers among many others.
Efforts by Kilimanjaro National Park to address the situation
According to the Chief Park Warden, in recent years, the Park in collaboration with the government has put in place comprehensive plans and strategies that have started bearing fruits.
Smoking out the poachers and cattle
The Chief Park Warden explained that most poachers in Kilimanjaro National Park are those looking for forest products. However, wild animal poachers are in the west at a game controlled area in the boundary with Amboseli Park in Kenya.
“This poaching is trans-boundary; some poachers come from Kenya hunting the Elephants, Buffaloes, Giraffes, and Antelopes. They hunt Elephants that migrate from the dry areas of Amboseli in Kenya following water in Kilimanjaro National Park,” he said.
He said that Kilimanjaro National Parks in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have launched intelligence system of exchanging information and they meet once every year to assess the situation and put new strategies.
He also said that the Park in collaboration with the Kilimanjaro Regional Authorities launched regular patrols to smoke out the poachers in the forest. Citing an example, he said that in 2012/2013, KINAPA’s patrol team arrested a total of 426 poachers.
“During the same period, we arrested a total of 2239 timbers, 94 ordinary wood saws and 5 chain saws. The Park also arrested and smoked out 102, Cows, 23 Goats and 27 Sheep.”
In 2013/14, the park arrested 337 poachers, 105 ordinary wood saws, 3 chain saws, 755 timbers, 45 cows, 22 goats, and 46 sheep
“During the operation, the regional commissioner Leonidas Gama gave us a very big support. We also work closely with law enforcement organs such as the police, the court and government state Attorneys,” he revealed.
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Outreach Programme: This involves provision of social services by the authorities while local communities support conservation through community policing and intelligence to counter illegal activities such as poaching.
To enhance community participation, TANAPA conducts conservation education and awareness campaigns to the local communities. This makes the surrounding communities part of the conservation of the Mountain.
The Park’s Outreach Programme warden, Charles Ngendo explained that the Park established community outreach department where the Park is conducting regular training on conservation education of the Park.
“If we have good cooperation with the adjacent communities it is easy to win their support and dissolve some conflicts that arises between the Park and the surrounding communities,” he added.
About community projects
According to Ngendo, the projects are initiated by the communities themselves according to their preference. He said that they are bottom-up approach.
In realising this goal, seven percent of the recurrent budget is set aside to support different community projects. It is like corporate social responsibility,” he said.
In these projects, KINAPA contributes 70 percent and the community 30 percent of the total cost of the project. “Communities contribute some amount so that they don’t perceive KINAPA as a donor agent but feel a sense of ownership and for sustainability of the project” he said.
He said since the programme started in early 1990’s, the Park has supported a total of 120 different projects ranging from construction of classrooms to health projects in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions. Districts supported include Hai, Moshi Rural District, Rombo, Siha and Longido.
The views of the government
The Chairman of Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment James Lembeli said that conservation should be given first priority because that will attract more tourists in the Park.
“Everyone should play his role in the fight against poachers, there should be no politics in this issue because without conservation there shall be no tourists” said Kahama Lawmaker.
The Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu explained that as the Ministry plans to rebrand tourists attraction, conservation of Tanzania National Parks is a must.
He explained that the government is determined on this matter and will continue working with local communities and the international community to adequately implement its anti-poaching drive in its different national parks.