Day 238: Conservation and Peppercorn

A trek east includes a drive by some creative conservation projects.

August 26, 2015: Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania — After a couple of hours this morning in the West Usambara Mountains, during which we mostly saw the same birds as yesterday, Anthony, Roger, David, Harv, Kelle, and I made our way east to a wetter flank of the Usambara mountain range where we’ll spend the next two nights. We arrived in late afternoon at a research station originally built by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and later handed to the Tanzanian government. Next door is a malaria research institute, and all around is lush forest.

En route, Anthony filled us in on some government projects in these mountains. First he pointed out some trees with leafy vines growing up their trunks. A few years ago, Anthony said, the government started a reforestation effort which required each family to plant a few trees around their house. For economic encouragement, they showed people how to plant black pepper vines which would grow up the trees. Lots of families planted trees and pepper plants, and today this area is much greener than it was—and it’s a major source of black pepper for the nearby coastal city of Dar es Salaam.

Then we passed a building with gleaming metal structures inside, and Anthony explained that this is a new milk processing plant built by the government. A federal program gives a heifer to each family, with certain restrictions, to keep in their yard as a milk producer. The families combine their milk and sell it, and the idea is to reduce the number of cattle grazing on wild lands. 

It’s hard to know how well these programs are working, but it’s interesting to see the efforts. Many families now live within the Amani Nature Reserve and grow sugarcane, teak, and other crops inside the forest. Earlier this year, in different places, I’ve seen the full range: Pristine parks with armed guards all the way to unprotected reserves which have been clearcut, settled, and grazed flat. Of course, people have to live somewhere. Maybe the solution lies somewhere in the middle.

We'll spend the full day tomorrow birding in the nature reserve, with a few last specialized target birds. Then, the following day, I'll begin to make my way toward Uganda—my last stop in Africa!

New birds today: 3

Year list: 4070

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