Earlier this week I was lucky enough to connect with Tanzanian Field Researcher Goodluck Massawe. He performs a host of wildlife research for the Tanzania Wildlife Research Insitute (TAWIRI), doing some amazing work on the interconnectedness of nature, wildlife, agriculture, and communities. I inquired Goodluck about his motivations and priorities for wildlife in one of Africa’s most biodiverse areas, Tanzania. His insightful responses are outlined below:
What inspired you to conduct wildlife research?
I first entered this field of wildlife research as a student attempting to gain field/work experience as a volunteer, assisting lecturers and various experts in their research projects. It was here where I developed interest and skills such as research practice, data collection and analysis, research presentation skills, animal identification, and survey techniques required by conservation practitioners.
Currently, Over the last 3 years, I have been working with Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) within the framework of the Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resource, as a Field Assistant and as a Research Assistant with specific duties of assisting senior researchers in data collection in various protected areas in Tanzania. My intrinsic motivation to study research techniques and my will to help African communities coexist with the wildlife around them has been my primary motivation behind conducting wildlife research. As I interact with various researchers, I keep learning a lot from them.
What do you believe to be the most pressing Tanzanian issue in conservation at the moment?
This question is very broad. However, drawing my experience from various protected areas and biodiversity research across Tanzania, it is highlighted that-habitat degradation and blockage of wildlife corridors, land-use changes, overexploitation & illegal resource extraction, wildfires, human population growth, and human-wildlife conflicts are all threatening issues that are developing in Tanzania. These actions are all putting natural resources and wildlife at risk of overexploitation and thus extinction.
Understanding the main challenges underpinning the ecosystem is an integral step towards setting up of shared objectives within stakeholders, strategies, and plans that will improve and lead to effective management of the protected areas in Tanzania.
What role does community play in wildlife conservation?
From my experience, poor conservation outcomes result when management strategies fail to consider the opinions of the local community on conservation of natural resources. Planned urbanization and infrastructural developments adjacent to protected areas should directly benefit the local community. We cannot expect to keep convincing the community to invest in beekeeping, tree planting, etc. wen their immediate need for food, clothing, school, and medical fees are not satisfied.
It’s time to recognize community efforts in conservation. Finding the balance between land preservation and urvanization is very important. The government need to survey the opinions of the local people and design ways to set land for conservation that will not hinder the lives of the locals significantly. Only then, the communities will willingly assist in wildlife conservation. Many families in Tanzania poach only because of their sole need to survive. Poaching activities will only go down if economic benefits are felt at the individual household level. Education about the importance of wildlife conservation is also needed in schools not only in Tanzania, but also worldwide as school taught content rarely discusses the imminent threats the natural world encounters. Local communities have to be part of the conservation process.
What role does agriculture play in wildlife conservation?
Agricultural land provides important habitat to a variety of wildlife species, with natural land for pasture, woodlands & wetlands having the highest habitat value. However, it requires careful management of agricultural crops to prevent monocultural agriculture and reducing the use of chemical insecticides to reduce the adverse impact on the pollinator diversity. Using organic farming and mixed crops/agroforestry systems will enhance crop-pollinator interaction.
What research are you looking to conduct in the future?
I am always looking for ways for my research to directly benefit the conservation of Tanzania's protected areas. I seek to achieve this through the development of new or novel combinations of monitoring techniques to improve existing ones. However, the Tanzanian government provides limited funding to TAWIRI, which is always a barrier for scientists in their pursuit of improvement.
In the future, I plan to conduct research projects about the impacts of land use and climate change on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity across Tanzania. Global change is a threat to biodiversity, the functioning of ecosystems, and the provision of ecosystem services in Tanzania.
To ensure ecosystem services such as agricultural and forestry productivity, climate regulation, water quality, pollination, carbon storage in soil and biomass, as well as biodiversity, sustainable management strategies must be developed and operationalized. I will investigate how climate change will influence land-use and land management. I will evaluate the consequences and efficiencies of biological diversity and ecosystem services in Tanzania. I will then apply the ecosystem models such as LPJ-GUESS to estimate climate-related changes in growth conditions.
If you are interested in Goodluck's work, you can discover more in-depth coverage of Goodluck’s study here. You can keep up-to-date with his research on our website or on TAWIRI’s website. If you wish to reach out to Goodluck, he is very responsive over both Instagram (goodlucky_01) and Twitter (@Goodluc00408894). We can’t wait to see what he moves onto next, as his work is essential for continued support and monitoring of the natural world in Tanzania.
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