Mweka College with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.
identification and classification of plants and animals, vertebrate and invertebrate biology and the methodology of conducting biodiversity surveys. Other studies include administrative skills necessary for wildlife resource management in national parks, as well as wildlife utilization, captive breeding, herbarium collection and species restoration.
Mweka College was founded in 1963, two years after (then) Tanganyika’s independence, as a pioneer institution for the training of wildlife managers. Since then it has been a leader in the industry throughout Africa and regularly sponsors conferences and seminars on wildlife conservation for the African and international community of conservationists.
In July Jane Goodall visited Mweka to share with students information about her work with youth groups and her community empowerment program called TACARE. This project works with villagers around national park and reserve areas to raise their standards of living in order to give them alternate means of livelihood, so that overuse of natural resources within the reserves will be reduced, similar to the programs that Dismas oversees with the communities surrounding NCA.
As part of the activities, Goodall planted an mpingo tree
on the campus (see photo left). The seedling was from the ABCP nursery and
Cyril delivered a talk, explaining to Goodall and the students
the importance of the species and the focus of ABCP efforts
towards its conservation. In northern Tanzania, activities such
as these are establishing a more enlightened model to build a
future in which ways can be found that enable communities to
live within and benefit from the natural world, yet preserve the
ancient harmonic balance that is nature’s very keynote, thus
resulting in benefit to people, plants and animals alike.
Last fall the ABCP was contacted by a Canadian TV producer who was filming a program about the Mwenge Woodcarvers Market in Dar es Salaam. The documentary was to be part of a 13-part series called Markets on Earth, described as, “an international documentary series focusing on unusual and captivating markets around the world. In each episode, viewers discover the local culture of the region from the point of view of the shopkeepers, the producers and the customers.” It would be distributed by TV5Monde, a French cable network distributed in 200 countries around the world. Other programs in the series included a flower market in India, a spice market in Indonesia, a tea market in Beijing and a camel market in Arabia.
The Mwenge Market is a co-op of over 200 Makonde carvers, who work and sell on the market grounds. The program showcased their exquisite work, primarily using mpingo, and also drew attention to the threatened conservation status of the wood. Cyril related information about the threatened status of the tree and spoke of the work of the ABCP to reestablish populations of the tree in the northern regions of Tanzania.
The burgeoning growth of the east African tourist trade has led to the entry of many more carvers into the marketplace, increasing the already intense pressure on remaining stocks of mpingo. This is particularly notable along the route of the Northern Circuit of Tanzania, so called because of its popular wildlife parks, including the National Parks of Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti, as well as Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbed by over 30,000 hikers every year.
Although the tourism has led to a welcome prosperity in many societal sectors, it has also added to the strain on local natural resources. Mpingo carvings have become immensely popular, and are being purchased by art collectors and museums throughout the world, thus adding to its vulnerability.
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