Chimpanzees, the closest species to human beings, are sadly facing extinction. Tanzania is home to 2,200 chimpanzees with Western Tanzania containing over 90 percent of the population. The Tanzanian population of chimpanzees is facing increasing threats of endangerment as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation from illegal logging, settlement expansion, and conversion of habitat for economic/agricultural purposes. Chimpanzees in the region are also directly at risk from nearby human communities through disease transmission and human-wildlife conflict. Underlying these threats, rapidly growing human populations in Western Tanzania are depleting natural resources and expanding upon unsustainable land-use practices. These issues, paired with the limited capacity of local government to effectively manage natural resources, have limited the growth of positive conservation outcomes.
To address this pressing matter, USAID launched a five-year project designed to protect the country’s chimpanzee populations. RTI, with Pathfinder International, helps the Jane Goodall Institute implement the Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania program to empower local communities to lead and sustain the conservation effort. The program conducts a variety of activities in communities that have a significant role in creating conditions that enable or disable threats to chimpanzees. Such program activities include land use planning, improvement of access to reproductive health and family planning resources, monitoring for conservation and development targets, and the growth of community-based environmental education.
With years of experience in the region, RTI will play a key advising role in the program by providing technical assistance and support intended to build the capacity of local government. Through our support, local governments will improve their natural resource management (NRM) and communities will diversify the base of economic opportunities to promote more sustainable livelihoods.
To assist local government to build their capacity, RTI conducted a political economy assessment. The assessment analyzed the complex underlying dynamics among local stakeholders and institutions that significantly impact NRM. Eva Matsiko, an RTI governance expert who plays a mentorship role to in-country staff working on this aspect of the program, believes that our plans to assist local government in this way could significantly increase financing for conservation efforts.
“My expectation is that we will bring to the conservation effort a greater understanding of how the different governance levels from the village to the district level can exert their authority to be a positive influence on the conservation efforts,” Matsiko said. “We discuss entry points with different levels of governance and even approaches we can use that could contribute to increased financing.”
RTI will also advise and support entrepreneurs with the development of investment promotion and business and marketing plans. To inform this support we conducted a value chain analysis in June 2019. We anticipate that our endeavors will lead to opportunities to aid in market expansion. Instead of being heavily reliant on logging, communities will focus on producing other locally produced goods such as honey. As a result, community members who rely on more traditional means of acquiring an income will have more options to live sustainably and decrease their impact on the endangered chimpanzee population in the region.
At RTI, we are thrilled to continue our commitment to biodiversity and conservation in Tanzania. Our work on the LCWT program follows other programs in the region that focus on protecting endangered species. This includes the USAID Promoting Tanzania’s Environment, Conservation, and Tourism program, which addresses the dynamics that threaten biodiversity and inhibit private sector-led ecotourism growth. Whether we are spearheading the effort or partnering with others who care, we believe in strategically continuing the fight against animal endangerment and other threats to biodiversity while helping underdeveloped nations along the path towards self-reliance and resilience.