A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Kigoma, Tanzania

Danielle Nierenberg (left) with Pancras Ngalason of the Jane Goodall Institute

Danielle Nierenberg (left) with Pancras Ngalason of the Jane Goodall Institute

I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania excited to catch a flight to Kigoma, a region in the northwestern part of the country to visit a Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania project working with small farmers to promote sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately Precision Air, one of only two airlines that flies to the remote region, has suspended all flights for the next several weeks and  the other airline is all booked. It’s the first major hiccup after traveling for the last month, so I really don’t have anything to complain about.

I did get a chance, however, to meet with JGI staff here in Dar and learn more about their work not only in Tanzania, but all over the world.

Pancras Ngalason is the Executive Director of JGI Tanzania and he explained how the Institute has evolved since it began in the 1970s. They’ve gone, according to Ngalason, beyond research to address questions of livelihood.

JGI started as a center to research and protect wild chimpanzee populations in what is now, thanks to their efforts, Gombe National Park. But in the early 1990s JGI realized that if it didn’t start addressing the needs of the communities surrounding the park, their efforts to conserve wildlife wouldn’t work. JGI first started by planting trees in the region, but soon found that communities cut them down, not because they wanted to, but because they needed them for fuel and for making charcoal. It was at that time, says Ngalason, that we “thought beyond planting trees” and more about community-based conservation.

JGI started working with communities to develop government- mandated land use plans, helping them develop soil erosion prevention practices, agroforestry, and production of value-added products, such as coffee and palm oil. They like to say that their products are “Good for All”—good for farmers by providing income, good for the environment by protecting natural resources, and good for the consumer by providing a healthy product.

They’re also working training community health practitioners about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, educating youth, establishing micro-credit programs, and working with UNICEF and USAID to supply clean water to communities.

“These are services,” says Ngalason, “people require in order to appreciate the environment,” and ultimately helps not only protect the chimps and other wildlife, but also helps build healthy and economically viable communities.

Stay tuned for more about JGI’s Roots and Shoots program.

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