Africa Conservation Trust
Africa Conservation Trust, ACT, is a pioneer African based and run conservation organization, which has been founded by former Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism of Tanzania, Lazaro Nyalandu, with a mission to inspire African solutions to conservation challenges facing the continent today. Driven by a desire to help put in place both workable policy framework and actual ground game interventions, ACT seeks to revolutionize participatory conservation approaches, by enhancing public private partnerships across the conservation front lines, seeking to address protection of these assets, and equitable and sustainable resources utilization between communities and businesses.
Africa Conservation Trust is being launched in the backdrop of heightened concerns with regard to extinction of numerous wildlife species through poaching, including elephants and rhinoceros across Africa, but more so, given the overall increased human-wildlife conflicts across the major ecosystems, an evident disappearance of wildlife corridors between one ecosystem to the other. This has resulted in increased animal behavior change, and inbreeding, human-wildlife conflicts, and gradual but consistence change in how local communities have related with wildlife for generations, among others.
If left unchecked, regardless of how many other interventions the global community might wish to undertake, diminishing wildlife corridors, continued poaching, and unsustainable utilization of wildlife and forestry assets will bring an end to abundance African wildlife and its biodiversity of flora and fauna.
At ACT, we have developed a set of objectives to be realized through team work, collaborative efforts among stakeholders, including communities surrounding conservation areas, local and central governments, and international community, with the aim at strengthening on site protection of these protected areas through strengthening of game Rangers capacity, and community empowering through as they become partakers of shared benefits of sustainable utilization through tourism related products.
Lazaro was born and raised in rural Tanzania area of Singida, from where he was privileged to receive a scholarship to go to College in the United States. Upon completion of his program of study at Waldorf and Wartburg Colleges in Iowa, he briefly worked for Norwest Bank in Minneapolis prior to his return home where he joined community development initiatives, and later elected a local Member of Parliament to represent his District in Tanzania's National Assembly. Having served as a local area MP for Singida North Constituency from 2000 to 2010, he received a presidential appointment to serve as a Minister, starting in 2010 when he became Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade, and later on moved to National Resources and Tourism as Deputy Minister in 2011, and was appointed full Cabinet Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism of the United Republic of Tanzania in January of 2014.
During his time as Cabinet Minister responsible for Tanzania's Natural Resources and Tourism, he was appointed to lead a ministry in crisis, as the nation had witnessed the climax of elephant poaching crisis engulfIng the African continent, and our country was at the epicenter of a global engineered poaching crisis which saw elephant population decrease from 110,000 in 2009 to 41,000 in 2014, and global trade on ivory had reached an unprecedented levels with demands for ivory and rhino horns in Asian countries threatening to wipe out the entire elephants and rhino population in Africa. At this particular moment, the Selous Game Reserve, which is considered Africa's largest game sanctuary comprising of 55,000 square kilometers (or roughly the size of the country of Belgium), had seen its elephants population shrink from 55,000 (2009) to 14,000 (2014), triggering a global outcry and call for action, which saw me at the driver's seat as a Minister working to coordinate a global force with our local capacity address the crisis.
At the epicenter of it all, was a simple young men and women in uniform, Game Rangers, who stood in harms way to protect these wild species day and night. He recalls a young lady named Dorcus who had reported for duty on the day she was hired as a Game Ranger at Maswa Game Reserve, west of Serengeti, where she was murdered on that cold blood night when poachers in pursuit of Ivory ambushed the Rangers at a daring midnight gun fight. She loved the wildlife and she, like many fellow game Rangers, finally paid the ultimate price for conservation of wildlife.
During Lazaro's tenure as a Minister, he worked with international community to bring home and abroad the awareness of what was at stake, that elephants could be distinct during our life time. He established inter-ministerial task force to better coordinate our efforts on the ground, and he worked with conservation stakeholders to support actions on the ground, including training, equipping, and additional hiring of boots on the ground to stem out the crisis. Lazaro pioneered the signing of the first ever agreement aimed at protecting the shared ecosystems between Tanzania and Mozambique (Selous-Niassa Corridor Agreement), which was followed by singing of Tanzania-Zambia Miombo Woodland Protection Agreement. The Selous-Niassa Agreement would pave way for protection of the elephant corridor between Selous in Tanzania (55,000 sq km), and Niassa National Park in Mozambique (40,000 sq km), where by a corridor between these two protected areas in two countries is 40,000 sq km, were elephants had roamed faced their demise. On the Tanzania-Zambia Miombo Woodland Agreement, we aimed to jointly protect and secure Miombo woodland, the elephant habitat areas, in the shared ecosystem to allow elephants population to thrive.
Knowing what Lazaro knows from being the top leader in conservation in Tanzania, a country that holds most of the conserved wildlife assets in Africa, and now that he is not in a government leadership position, he believe he is best suited to lead non governmental initiatives through Africa Conservation Trust, aimed at making sure we complement efforts of communities and governments across Africa in their quest for conservation of elephants and other endangered wild species. Lazaro believes that unless daring efforts are undertaken, he wants his 8 years old daughter and my 6 years old son face real danger of waking up to a continent without her natural wildlife assets, which will be a real tragedy for which we all must work together to avert.
Lazaro believes the best chance of success in conservation requires our joint efforts to train, equip, and empower game Rangers to do their job of protecting these wild places, and to enable community surrounding these areas to benefit from sustainable utilization through tourism related products. We must work together to protect shared ecosystems across countries in Africa, and protecting elephants and other animals natural corridors. We call all serve our wildlife, one place at a time, if we believe and out our actions to work.