At its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the World Heritage Committee expressed its concern regarding a number of issues in the property, in particular: a) the issue of local communities within the property and the associated impacts of cultivation, b) problems of road developments and traffic congestion, c) planned lodge developments, in particular on the crater rim, d) invasive species, e) infrastructure development within the conservation area and f) the lack of tourism development strategies and requested a joint monitoring mission to the property. In 2007, a joint mission visited the property and developed a number of recommendations to address these issues. At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission and requested another mission be undertaken to the property in 2008 to review their the progress in implementation.
On 4 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides some information on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 mission.
As requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), a joint UNESCO/ IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the property from 1 to 6 December 2008. The detailed findings and recommendations of the mission are contained in the report of the mission, which is available for reference on the website of the World Heritage Centre, http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM. The mission reviewed the progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 monitoring mission:
a) Continue and complete by June 2008 the process of voluntary relocation of immigrant populations
As of September 2008, 150 immigrant households totalling 538 (of a total immigrant population established at 2000 individuals in 2006) are reported by the protected area authority, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Authority (NCAA) to have been relocated through a voluntary process, and some have left on their own initiative to their former villages. The process has been hampered by a lack of willingness of the targeted populations and NCAA states that more awareness raising activities are needed. They hope to make “substantial progress” by 2011. In a meeting with the mission team, Maasai representatives stated that relocation was only partially voluntary and requested a more transparent process. The mission team recommends that cooperation with the local communities and other stakeholders be increased and that the voluntary relocation process is accelerated and a date agreed to conclude it. . Also, the process for voluntary relocation and the timing of the relocation activities should be decided and communicated through public consultation.
b) Carry out and complete by June 2008 a census and carrying capacity census, based on the needs of the Maasai population and an assessment of the ecological impacts of the populations
Based on a human population census conducted in 2007, the resident population is estimated at 64,000 individuals, an increase of 4,000 compared to the 2002 census. No new carrying capacity study was implemented as requested by the 2007 mission. A previous carrying capacity study estimated the carrying capacity at 25,000 people, based on an estimated grazing capacity of 254,000 large herbivore units (cattle and wildlife). However, it is clear that this figure is contested by the Maasai community, some of whom even contest the concept of carrying capacity. While there might be some discussion on the exact numbers, in the view of the mission team, it is clear that the carrying capacity of large parts of the property has been already surpassed. Many areas visited by the mission team are overgrazed, in particular around the villages and water points. In addition, increasing areas of the property are in agricultural use. While agriculture was prohibited at the time of inscription of the property, in 1992, the Government decided to temporarily lift this ban, taking into account problems with food security. Since then the area under agriculture has increased rapidly. The mission observed that the agricultural techniques used are very basic and result in soil erosion and a rapid degradation of the land under cultivation, creating the need for further increases in cultivated areas. The General management plan still regards cultivation as an illegal activity in the property. However, in spite of its increasing importance, the management plan foresees no interventions to curb it or manage it. The mission team is extremely concerned by the lack of progress on this issue and believes the increasing numbers of people residing within the property and their impact on the natural resources through agriculture and overgrazing is the most important threat to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property.
c) Implement the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment on traffic congestion in the crater
So far, NCAA has focussed on recommendation 8 of the EIA, namely the development of alternatives for the use of the crater: nature trails have been developed in several parts of the property, a visitor centre and several roads are under construction to facilitate access to other visitor attractions. However, so far none of the other recommendations have been implemented. According to NCAA, it was necessary to first develop the alternative options in order to make restrictions on the crater visit more acceptable to the tour operators. In the mean time, visitor numbers have continued to rise with 508,734 visitors in the 2007/2008 season, compared to 380,235 visitors in the 2006/2007 season. The mission is therefore extremely concerned by the lack of progress on this issue.
d) Close and rehabilitate all existing gravel pits in the property
Some gravel pits were closed, including the one inside the crater. NCAA explained to the mission team that sourcing gravel from outside the property would accelerate the problems of introduction of invasive species, which are common in the agricultural areas around the property. While the mission team understands this concern and believes it can be acceptable to keep some gravel pits open in the property, they should be confined to areas with minimal impact on the natural values of the property. The mission notes that the gravel pit on the crater rim near Sopa lodge, which is currently in use for the rehabilitation of the road to Empakai, is damaging the scenic values and integrity of the property and should be closed immediately.
e) Freeze any new lodge development in the property, in particular on the crater rim
Following the recommendations of the 2007 mission, the proposal for a new lodge development on the crater rim (the Kempinski lodge) was not approved and NCAA is continuing to observe a moratorium on new lodge development on the rim. However, contrary to Decision 31 COM 7B.2, the State Party has not frozen all new lodge development and several lodges and tented camps are currently being planned in other parts of the property (5 to 9 depending on the source of the information). Currently the process for allocating a number of new lodge/tented camp sites is underway. NCAA stated that these proposed developments will be subject to an EIA. Already some proposals were said to have been abandoned following a negative EIA. Representatives of the Maasai communities expressed reservations to some of the current lodge developments, which they fear will limit their access to water in certain areas and will not bring direct benefit to them. They also complained that they were consulted only very late in the process.
f) Develop a proactive tourism strategy to guide future activities in relation to tourism within the conservation area
The mission received a copy of the tourism strategic plan developed in 2006 by NCAA. However, this strategic plan is mainly looking at ways and means to promote the tourism product of the property and increase the number of visitors to the property. The mission considers this not adequate as clearly the main management issue is how to manage the increasing visitor numbers in the property without damaging its values, rather than further increasing visitor numbers. While the management plan recognizes the issue of management of visitor pressure, and recognizes the need to optimise revenue within the Limits of Acceptable Use (LAU), there are no concrete activities foreseen in the plan other than the diversification of the tourism product foreseen to address this issue.
g) Ensure that existing lodges are best practice models in relation to environmental protection
So far, only two lodges are reported to have completed an environmental audit. NCAA informed the mission that efforts are underway to complete this process with the other lodges, as soon as possible.
h) Continue existing programmes for control of invasive species, in particular to eradicate Azolla filicoloides
NCAA is continuing the existing control programmes on invasive species through controlled burning and other measures. Azolla remains the main threat, as it has infested the fresh water bodies in the crater. For the moment, manual removal remains the only strategy to address this. A workshop on the management of invasive species was organized in 2008 to raise awareness of the threats by invasive species.
i) Complete as quickly as possible the programme to relocate NCAA and lodge staff as well as other major infrastructure outside the property
Very little progress was made on the implementation of this recommendation. During the 2007 mission, NCAA announced that the entire process of relocating the 360 families of NCAA employees would be completed by June 2008. So far, only 4 flats are being finalized, which can accommodate 24 families and another four flats are being constructed in 2009. NCAA now states that the process might be completed by 2012 if it can ensure the necessary funding. No progress was made on the relocation of lodge staff. Moreover, the mission team found that a new office complex for NCAA was built on the crater rim, in total contradiction with the above mentioned recommendation. No EIA was submitted to the World Heritage Centre or made available to the mission team. The mission was informed that there is a lot of resistance against the relocation of staff and infrastructure, not only by the people directly concerned but also by local decision makers, as it is perceived as a first step towards the relocation of the communities living in the property.
j) Explore alternatives to limit or remove cattle grazing in the crater
NCAA reported to the mission that while cattle grazing is no longer allowed in the crater, cattle salt licking is still allowed for a limited number of families. NCAA has taken measures to provide Maasai with other salt resources and also constructed artificial dams in two villages to ensure water availability during the dry season. While they report that the number of people and cattle going into the crater has diminished, the practice is still happening as it is culturally strongly anchored.
k) Explore and implement a range of innovative financing mechanisms
The ability of the NCAA to generate and retain its own revenue provides it with a unique opportunity to respond effectively to the wide range of management challenges it faces. The income of the NCAA has risen dramatically in recent years as visitor numbers have increased and fees for entry and other uses in the property have been raised several times. For 2007/2008, the total revenue of NCAA was reported to amount to more than 35 Billion Tanzania Shilling (equivalent to 26 Mio USD), a doubling since 2005/2006.
Faced with this increasing income, NCAA developed an investment policy in 2006. However, several stakeholders, including leaders of the Maasai community complained to the mission of a lack of transparency in the financial management. The mission team requested detailed information on how the income earned by the NCAA was allocated but, to date, such information has not been provided. The mission team believes that as a public entity, NCAA should make its accounts public so that the many stakeholders in the property can see how the Authority is using the resources earned for the management of the property.
In addition, the mission recommends the NCAA, resident populations and the State Party to develop benefit-sharing mechanisms that encourage a sense of ownership of, and responsibility for, the conservation and sustainable use of the property’s natural resources.
l) Develop a high level technical forum between NCAA, TANAPA and the Wildlife Department to ensure better management of the Ngorongoro-Serengeti ecosystem
Following this recommendation, a “Serengeti Ecosystem Forum” (SEF) was established between the management authorities of the Serengeti National Park (managed by TANAPA), NCAA and the adjoining game reserves (managed by the Wildlife Division) and other stakeholders such as the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in August 2008. However, no regular meetings have taken place since. The mission team welcomes that the Forum was established and recommends that through the forum; an overall management vision for the ecosystem is developed, taking into account the management of the World Heritage values of both properties.
The mission team is further concerned with the growing tension between NCAA and the resident Maasai communities. Community leaders met with the mission and indicated that they considered the mechanisms and processes included in the General management plan with regard to the involvement of resident communities in the management of the property are not being actively pursued by NCAA management. The mission recommends that NCAA prioritize the initiation of a dialogue with resident communities to ensure their active participation in the decision-making processes and governance of the property. It is also noted that a re-nomination of the property has been submitted to consider cultural criteria, but unfortunately, Maasai community leaders informed the mission team that they were not aware of this. It is anticipated that the re-nomination will be considered by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session.
The mission team confirmed the assessment of the 2007 mission that while the Outstanding Universal Value of the property has been maintained, it is under increasing pressure and NCAA is facing many important management challenges to maintain the integrity of the property.
While some progress was made, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned that many of the recommendations of the 2007 mission are not yet fully implemented and in some cases, decisions were made going against the recommendations.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN feel that the most important conservation challenge for the property is to achieve the two main management objectives as stated in the 2006 GMP: “to maintain a dynamic multiple land-use system, which perpetuates the historic balance of people and nature” whilst at the same time “to conserve the biodiversity and ecological integrity of the Serengeti ecosystem and Ngorongoro highlands”. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that human pressure on the ecosystem, as a result from the increasing resident population leading to over grazing and increasing agricultural use of the land and increasing tourism pressure are already affecting the integrity of the property and threatening its Outstanding Universal Value. Urgent action is therefore needed to address both issues.
To address the tourism pressure issue, it is important that all eight recommendations of the EIA on traffic congestion in the crater are implemented urgently. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN believe that visitor pressure in the crater can only be managed by putting a clear maximum limit on the number of vehicles allowed in the crater per day (proposed at 100 in the EIA). A transparent reservation system should also be put in place. The measures should be framed as part of an overall tourism strategy for the property to guide the further development of the tourism industry, prioritizing the quality of the tourism experience, not the quantity of visitors and tourism facilities. The mission recommends that this strategy is developed for the entire Serengeti Ecosystem in conjunction with Tanzania National Parks as part of the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the tensions and conflict surrounding the management and use of resources within the property be addressed through improved stakeholders engagement. The issue of the population pressure has to be addressed based on the ecological carrying capacity of the system and taking into account the needs of the Maasai communities. They reiterate the recommendation of the 2007 mission to carry out a comprehensive scientific study on the carrying capacity of the property and the impacts of the resident populations. Based on the results of this study a dialogue should be started between NCAA, Maasai community leaders and other stakeholders to develop a joint strategy to address this issue, including the issue of increasing agricultural use in the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN anticipate that if this issue is not addressed urgently and if the current degradation patterns are not stopped, the Outstanding Universal Value of the property will be jeopardised.