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Appeal to H.E. The President of Tanzania

With a change of Government in Dar Es Salaam the ICCA is once again pressing for the land rights of the people of Uvinje to be respected

Saadani was initially a game reserve created in the 1960s, partly at the behest of local residents concerned over seeing outsiders come in and indiscriminately kill wildlife. Saadani village contributed land for the reserve. However, when the game reserve became a national park records of the boundaries became scarce. Recent research seems to have done a thorough job of confirming the claims by local residents that the Tanzania National Parks Authority has arbitrarily redrawn park boundaries to snap up additional village land. Now they are ready to evict residents of Uvinje Sub-village.




President John Pombe Magufuli

President’s Office
The State House
1, Barack Obama Road
11400 Dar es Salaam

The United Republic of Tanzania

Fax: 2113425/2116914/2117272


Bugnaux (Switzerland), January 11, 2016


Ref: Fifth communication concerning the Uvinje Land and Conservation Grievance in Saadani Village, Pwani, northeast Tanzania


Your Excellency,

May we, the ICCA Consortium, an international organisation based in Switzerland, offer our warm congratulations on your election by the people of the United Republic of Tanzania. We take great pleasure in noting the immediate and well-received impact that your Presidency has achieved to date.

The ICCA Consortium is an international association registered under Swiss law uniting organisations and federations of indigenous peoples and local communities and their supporting NGOs concerned with the appropriate recognition of the territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs) throughout the world. We are a partner organisation of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP GEF SGP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Our Members and Honorary Members span over seventy countries.

The ICCA Consortium’s worldwide engagement is part of the global recognition of the importance of community conservation practices, including by those who define themselves as indigenous peoples and those who do not, to achieve global conservation goals and targets. This recognition is enshrined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which recommends Parties to “recognize the role of indigenous and local community conserved areas in biodiversity conservation and diversification of governance types” (CBD COP 10, Decision X 31), a role considered fundamental to reach Aichi Biodiversity Targets 11 and 18, among others.

We would like to draw your attention to a matter which has for some time troubled the international conservation and land rights community as well as your own Tanzanian affected citizens. These are the coastal communities surrounding Saadani National Park, Bagamoyo District. Concerns particularly focus on the most profoundly affected community of Uvinje, a sub-village of Saadani village.

This matter concerns persistent attempts to evict the Uvinje community on what we conclude are spurious and possibly illegal grounds. This attempted eviction is also unnecessary due to Tanzania’s innovative conservation strategies. Once you have scrutinised the facts, we have one request that we hope you will find fit to pursue: to direct your agencies to resolve the matter in a fair and practical manner that puts the interests of ordinary and poor citizens first, however few they may be. Given the controversial role of Government institutions in this matter, and particularly of the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), we would further urge that any delegation you send to investigate the case is independently led and advised.

The issue on which we seek your attention is not a new matter. It has origins in the redrawing of village boundaries more than ten years ago to create the Saadani National Park. This process incorporated significant village lands. There are procedures for this to occur when it is deemed to be in the public interest. In this particular instance, incorporation was effected through covertly redrawing a critical boundary of the Saadani Game Reserve, whilst claiming this had not taken place. This had a resulting detrimental effect on the local population.

As background: in the 1960s, Saadani village, including its sub-village Uvinje, invited the Department of Wildlife to help them conserve the wildlife being indiscriminately killed on their village lands by outsiders. A partnership evolved and Saadani Game Reserve was officially established in 1974 with the full support of Saadani village; the village gave 50% of its territory for the Reserve. In the 1970s, this seemed a logical measure. Today, globally and in Tanzania, we know that more modern approaches can be adopted to help communities themselves create protected and conserved areas.

In the late 1990s TANAPA arrived to ‘upgrade’ the Reserve into a National Park and a process of consultation ensued. The National Park was to be larger than the Reserve and additional land was added from Saadani and other villages to the north, west and south sides of the Reserve. However, never in the course of these consultations was there any agreement to annex land from the eastern side of the Reserve; this comprises the coastal strip of Saadani village settlements, among them Uvinje. Furthermore, Bagamoyo District authorities secured a written commitment from TANAPA to return to the village an area of 1.5 square kilometres on this boundary to add to the very narrow strip of land that had been left for the Saadani village centre. Not only was this commitment never honoured, but also, the eastern boundary was almost entirely redrawn. The Park was said to include the totality of Uvinje and Porokanya, Saadani's two main coastal sub-villages, as well as part of the Saadani village centre. Unfortunately, district and other authorities gave their approval for the National Park unaware that the original boundaries of the Reserve at Saadani village had been altered and some of its population dispossessed.

TANAPA has since argued that the Park boundary in the east simply followed the boundary of the original Reserve. Retrieval and analysis of the original gazettement and of a map provided by the Department of Wildlife shows that this assertion by TANAPA is entirely incorrect, and therefore legally untenable:  the relevant area never formed part of the Reserve. While many of those affected by the gazettement of Saadani National Park (2005) have eventually accepted the compensation offered by TANAPA to resolve the complaints, Uvinje villagers who would lose their lands entirely, have stood firm against this.

The Uvinje community’s reasons for standing firm are not only due to the loss of traditional livelihoods that any relocation or eviction will cause. This is an old coastal community, deeply concerned at the prospect of social fragmentation and the loss of its heritage.  No compensation mechanism could make up for the losses that are contemplated. The community considers the threatened loss of their lands to be both unnecessary and an insult to them as law-abiding and helpful citizens. Such loss would also be a profoundly inappropriate response to the community’s own initiative to engage with Government in 1965 to protect their wildlife and communal lands from poaching. Uvinje villagers were key actors in this early conservation effort, and they remain committed to the same goals.

For its part, the Department of Wildlife at the time took care to exclude inhabited coastal areas in order to minimise interference with fishing and coconut palm livelihoods. The area was mapped andboundary beacons were installed, this was duly recorded at the time of gazettement.  Both were ignored by TANAPA in the process of converting the Reserve to a Park. Since its gazettement (2005), TANAPA has deemed the Uvinje villagers to be unlawful squatters, and has made repeated attempts to persuade or force them to leave their small homeland.

The ICCA Consortium has consulted widely on this matter with experts, including with a geographer who carried out research in this area, among other sites, and who collated the mapping information provided in the annexes. Enormous claims are made upon our time as a global organisation, and we do not give our support to issues lightly. In this instance, we find the cause just, and also pertinent to growing concerns as to how state bodies operate in the name of conservation. Our own legal reviews also conclude that there are means in Tanzanian legislation through which village land rights can be respected and conservation can be achieved. We submitted letters on this matter to President Jakaya Kikwete, first in August 2014, then again in February 2015 and May 2015. No resolve or response has been forthcoming. It is understood that at least one investigation team was formed but at no time did it reach the Uvinje community.

We have compiled a complete dossier detailing this issue in the documents attached to this letter. Appendix 1provides a chronology of events since 1965. Annexesto this appendixare also attached providing additional information and documentary evidence.

There are several points that should be highlighted: –

  1. This letter does not come from Uvinje sub-village, nor does it attempt to speak on their behalf. It is the result of our own analysis of the issue and our conclusion that it should again be brought to high-level attention in support of this community. One of the villagers’ common complaints is that as a small, very poor and unimportant community “they are never heard”. Grounded consultation with the Uvinje community will provide you with more information, and without doubt, more passionate appeal, as it is their heritage and future that is at stake. The villagers also have records that they wish to share with an independent investigation.
  2. As we understand it, at no time has any legitimate member of the Uvinje community either sought or agreed to compensation and relocation.  Over the last 15 years, the community has consistently requested that the commitments made to them in 1974 by the Department of Wildlife, and reflected in the gazetted Game Reserve boundaries, be acknowledged and upheld. Official investigations have supported the community’s claims.  TANAPA was clearly instructed to reinstate the status of Uvinje village land. This instruction has been ignored.
  3. Uvinje sub-village has not had the full support of the Saadani Village Council on this matter. Offers of compensation have been particularly divisive, but the genuine Uvinje residents have consistently declined offers of compensation.
  4. Over many decades, the Uvinje villagers have remained true to their commitment to conservation. Recently, they have also begun attempts to achieve this through the development of a community eco-lodge, Coco Lodge Holdings Limited, in partnership with an investor who is fully committed to the initiative for the benefit of the community.  No official acknowledgement has been made of this initiative, despite the fact that national policy encourages communities to take such actions in the interests of conserving local wildlife. We have also noted that Tanzania enjoys special constructs for communities to conserve wildlife and other natural resources on village land through Wildlife Management Areas and Community Land Forest Reserves. These have been used for some years in Tanzania, but none of these alternative avenues has been explored by TANAPA for the case of Uvinje. One reason for this failure may be found in the alleged intention of TANAPA to lease Uvinje lands to an international hotel operator.
  5. While the international community is fully aware that the State of Tanzania has the right to relocate and compensate villages in the public interest, we raise doubts that this particular relocation is in the public interest. One particular concern is the cavalier way in which this community’s land rights have been treated.  Lack of transparency and even the possibility of malfeasance concerning the displacement of original beacons cannot be excluded. These are matters we respectfully urge you to investigate. More confidently, we would assert that Uvinje villagers have shown that they can serve the public interest in matters of conservation, and rather than being evicted, they fully deserve the active support of TANAPA and the Tanzanian government in their efforts.

Your Excellency, we thank you for your attention and look forward to this matter being justly resolved once and for all.





Dr.  M. Taghi Farvar

President , The ICCA Consortium

Dr. Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend

Global Coordinator, The ICCA Consortium

Promoting the appropriate recognition of, and support to, the territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs)

Appendix 1:

Chronology Concerning the Uvinje Land and Conservation Grievance


1965: the Saadani village leaders approached the Director of Wildlife to request support to protect local wildlife that was being indiscriminately hunted by outsiders (Annex A).

1974: following joint planning, the Saadani Game Reserve was gazetted. This included a contribution of 50% of the traditional community land area of the people of Saadani for the Reserve. Villagers willingly surrendered these lands as they were concerned by poaching on their lands. Matipwili Village, located southwest of Saadani, also surrendered land for the Reserve. All were assured they would lose no further land. With their cooperation, the Department installed concrete beacons to delineate the boundary between the new Saadani Game Reserve and village land. This is described in the Gazette Notice (Annex B).

Only at one point, extending 2.5 km along the coast, did the Game Reserve extend to the coast (Annex C). This enabled the traditional fishing and coconut palm sub-villages of Saadani (and Uvinje sub-village in particular) to sustain occupation, livelihood and with access to the sea. A period of close cooperation between the village and wildlife staff ensued. Of note, this pre-dated development of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) and Community Land Forest Reserves (CLFR); the enthusiasm of these villagers may have been a contributing factor to development of these practical conservation routes in the 1990s by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Late 1990s: without involving or consulting Saadani villagers, TANAPA redrew the boundaries of Saadani Game Reserve to include all of Uvinje and Porokanya sub-villages and portions of other lands within Saadani Village including affecting the main village centre (Annex D). Initially, TANAPA requested the village to surrender only inland areas, and it is possible that agreement was secured. TANAPA also agreed to return 1.5 sq. km of the coastal zone made part of the Reserve in 1974, to cover expansion of Saadani’s village centre (Annex E). At no time did Uvinje villagers agree to or countenance loss of remaining coastal strips. A technical assessment of the differences between the gazetted boundaries of the Game Reserve in 1974 and the alleged boundaries of the same Game Reserve as produced by TANAPA are provided at Annex F. This clearly shows significant anomalies.

2003: Villagers protested the attempts of TANAPA to ignore the gazetted boundaries and Uvinje leaders recall that they were assured this would not occur (Annex G).


2005: Saadani National Park was formally gazetted (Annex H). The boundaries, as described, absorbed Saadani Game Reserve, not as had been originally gazetted but as the new TANAPA map incorrectly claimed it had been gazetted. The substantially expanded area encompassed almost all of Saadani village, including its communal land to the west of the Reserve and about 40 sq. km of its settled and coastal lands. By this act, the original area of Saadani Village was reduced to an unsustainable area for habitation and livelihood, a mere 12 sq. km.  Several sub-villages, and above all Uvinje, were to disappear. TANAPA referred to these villagers as illegal occupants of the Reserve, now Park (Annex I). This overnight legal dispossession took place despite numerous protests made by Uvinje villagers before the park was gazetted (Annex J).

2006: At the instruction of the President, an official investigation into the claims of Uvinje village was undertaken by the District Commissioner of Bagamoyo District and the Regional Commissioner of Coast Region. The Commission ruled in favour of the villages and instructed TANAPA to reinstate their lands (Annex K).

2006-10: Relieved, Uvinje villagers decided to get on with their lives and improve their livelihood. They had been discussing for some time whether to follow the example of other villages in the country and establish an eco-lodge. They found an investment partner and who, as a foreigner, secured a Letter of Offer of Right of Occupancy with a 99-year lease on a portion of Uvinje lands and with its full consent. Together, they formed a joint venture company with the approval of the Tanzania Investment Centre (Annex L). The community began to invest resources and labour into construction of a small eco-lodge, and for which they obtained an operating licence. Work on the building was forced to slow and virtually cease from 2010 when TANAPA began to demand full tourist fees for the partner to reach the plot, limiting his ability to bring in materials needed. The villagers also began to be charged fees when they attempted to move building materials for their eco-lodge.

2011: TANAPA launched new efforts to evict the Uvinje villagers, with the support of a new District Commissioner. Compensation was offered. It appears that various lists of eligible claimants were compiled in the intervening years. They may have received compensation. Some may have claimed to come from Uvinje, but none were legitimate residents of Uvinje Village (Annex M). The genuine Uvinje occupants restated their refusal to be evicted or to receive compensation to entice them to do so.

2012-13: Uvinje villagers approached the Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in late 2012 and the Tanzania Law Society (TLS) (August 2014) to assist them to bring the matter to court. However, as a very poor and small fishing community, they lacked funds to carry this through.

2014: With threats of enforced relocation continuing, Uvinje leaders approached various international NGO’s for support and were referred to the ICCA Consortium. Informed ICCA Consortium members made further inquiries. Protimos, a legal advisory group with offices in London and Cape Town dispatched a lawyer in East Africa at the time to review the matter on site. A review of relevant land, conservation and wildlife legislation and policies was also conducted. In addition, the ICCA Consortium was ably assisted by a geographer known to have worked in the area as part of her doctoral thesis. In the course of this work she had documented the location of the original area comprising the Saadani Game Reserve. She had also found two of the original boundary beacons which TANAPA had failed to remove (Annex N). After consideration of the merits of the matter, the ICCA Consortium wrote to President Jakaya Kikwete on August 20 2014 (Annex O). This received some press coverage (Annex P). As no official response was forthcoming, the ICCA Consortium wrote a second letter to President Kikwete on January 7 2015 (Annex Q).

2015: Among matters addressed by President Kikwete in his monthly televised broadcast of April 2015, he mentioned that he would establish a Parliamentary Committee to investigate land disputes around Saadani National Park including, and specifically mentioning the plight of Uvinje sub-village. This Committee was formed.  The ICCA Consortium wrote to thank and compliment the President for his expressed commitment on May 8 2015 (Annex R).

In mid May 2015, village leaders, of their own volition, also met with a member of the Committee, namely the District Commissioner of Bagamoyo, Mr Mwajid Hemed Mwanga. He promised that he or the Committee would visit the village of Uvinje before the end of May. This visit was not forthcoming.

On November 13 2015, a delegation of officials arrived at the TANAPA headquarters in Saadani and called the villagers to meetings on November 14 and 15 2015. We believe this delegation was fielded in response to your directive that outstanding matters be promptly resolved. The delegation was guided by the Chief Park Warden of Saadani National Park. Villagers were told that while various boundary disputes would be addressed, this would not include Uvinje or Porokanya. When this was questioned by the Chairman of Uvinje Sub-Village, the leader of that Commission said that the Uvinje and Porokanya sub-village lands have always been part of the preceding Game Reserve and would not be included in the investigation.

For access to Annexes A – R, please follow this link

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