Conservation agency rolls out massive tree planting scheme on Mount Kilimanjaro’s slopes

The move aims at reversing the melting down of ice on the Africa’s highest peak

THURSDAY March 23, 2023

Marangu Gate is one of ascending and descending routes for tourists scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. PHOTO | PATTY MAGUBIRA

By The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Tanzania has embarked on an ambitious plan that will see over 100,000 trees planted on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro each rain season as part of grand initiative to prevent the snow on the peak of the Africa’s highest peak from totally melting down.

Mount Kilimanjaro, the World’s highest free standing, is a symbol of fortune for local people and the national coffers, as it fetches them millions of dollars through tourists scaling it.

But the shrinking ice cap is threatening the icon of Tanzania’s tourism industry, with UN experts predicting that glaciers on the peak of the mountain will completely disappear by 2050 as a result of climate change.

While the UN says the trend could be reversed if the world cuts down global warning by 1.5 degrees centigrade, some studies indicate that 80 per cent of the snow had been broken down since early last century.

Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Conservation Commissioner William Mwakilema said recently that already 350 seedlings were planted at Samanga Primary School in Kilimanjaro Region ahead of the 50th anniversary of Kilimanjaro National Park.

Workers of Zara International Travel Agency popularly known as ZARA Tour pose for a photo during the 50th anniversary of Kilimanjaro National Park at Marangu Gate in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, recently.

The programme was simultaneously launched at the primary school grounds and at Utegi in Rombo District also in the region, attracting about 700 conservation and tourism players as well as pupils.

Mr Mwakilema was briefing Tanzania Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Mohamed Mchengerwa during the climax of the 50th anniversary of Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) on various activities carried out ahead of the commemoration.

The Conservation Commissioner of the state-owned conservation agency was optimistic trees would generate sufficient moisture and rains required for preserving the snow on the mountain, popularly known as the roof of Africa.

“The forest, rich in wildlife animals surrounding the mountain at between 1,700 and 2,700 metres above sea level, greatly contributes to mitigating climate change,” he observed.

The newly appointed minister for the docket commended conservation and tourism agencies in the country for setting the goal of planting 100,000 seedlings a year, saying the target was in line with the national strategy of planting five million seedlings come 2030.

Mr Mchengerwa warned defiant herders as well as corrupt conservation and tourism officials, saying their days were numbered.

“I am aware of unscrupulous herders bribing some conservation and tourism officials to allow the nomads to drive livestock into game reserves and national parks,” he said as he threatened to take stern measures against them.

The minister called on climbers to refrain from activities, which pollute and jeopardise the mountain, suggesting that the ministry and TANAPA should consider putting in place waste disposal and surveillance systems along the mountain’s ascending and descending routes.

“It is time we promote use of alternative energy to reduce the widespread application of firewood and charcoal,” he said.

Besides rolling out the tree-planting programme, TANAPA, in collaboration with over 200 conservation and tourism players from 11 outfits, carried out various other activities to celebrate the anniversary of one of the Tanzania’s 22 national parks created on March 16, 1973.

They include cleaning Mount Kilimanjaro’s ascending and descending routes and debating on the eve of the climax of the anniversary on the mountain, tourism and climate change, the activity which involved over 170 conservation and tourism players, higher learning students and ordinary citizens.

“TANAPA will continue collaborating with conservation and tourism players, the government, the public, private firms, researchers and journalists in ensuring ecological system continues being conserved and protected for sustainable development,” Mr Mwakilema said during the commemoration held at Marangu Gate.

Chairman of the TANAPA Board of Trustees George Waitara extended his gratitude to the Tanzania President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, for entrusting him with the chair for another period of five years.

“I will deliver in collaboration with Board members to be appointed in the near future,” promised the retired General as he revisited achievements of the 50-year old KINAPA and the entire tourism industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the world being confronted by the pandemic, tourism was recovering in Tanzania, as tourist arrival in KINAPA alone jumped from 12,050 in 2021 to over 47,000 by February 2023, equivalent to over 400 per cent rise, he said.

Gen Waitara attributed the achievement to, among other things, the Royal Tour documentary. “We thank the President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, for promoting the country overseas,” he said.

During the past 50 years, TANAPA continued improving infrastructure in KINAPA to give customers a conducive environment and experiences that were worth their dollars, said Gen Waitara, adding:

“Our envoy to Uganda (Dr Aziz Mlima) who has been climbing the mountain regularly testifies that a decade ago, the infrastructure was not as it is today.

“Despite the achievements, the mountain has been facing challenges, including melting down of snow on the peak.”

Gen Waitara noted that all conservation and tourism players had resolved to engage in an afforestation programme to reverse the trend.

Chinese envoy to Tanzania Chen Mingjian (LEFT) hands over a $1 million worth symbolic cheque to Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Mohamed Mchengerwa recently. The grant will be spent on strengthening conservation and mitigating effects of climate change on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. PHOTO | COURTESY

“If we conserve the environment, the snow will be restored,” said Gen Waitara, stressing that much as Kilimanjaro was selling the country overseas through a slogan: The Land of Kilimanjaro, Tanzanians should be proud of the mountain.

In attendance of the commemoration also included Mr Mwakilema’s predecessors Edward Kishe and Nyamakumbati Mafuru, the Chinese envoy to Tanzania, Ms Chen Mingjian, Dr Mlima, representatives from German Embassy, Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner, Mr Nurdin Babu, the CCM Chairman for Kilimanjaro Region, Mr Patrick Boisafi, and members of parliament from constituencies surrounding the mountain.

Ms Mingjian handed over to the minister $1 million worth relief fund cheque which President Xing Ping of China pledged when Dr Samia paid a state visit to the Asian country in November last year. Mr Mchengerwa said the money would be reserved for the protection of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Ms Mingjian said Tanzania and China were opening up their doors to each other after the COVID-19 pandemic, with the former scrapping quarantine requirements for travellers with effect from January to allow its citizens to travel overseas and Air Tanzania Limited flying to Guangzhou twice a weekΩ

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