Today we speak to Adam Brown, Project Coordinator on Frontier's Tanzania Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure project. He tells us what volunteers can expect from the project, what camp life is like and why it's a great place to spend some time abroad.
Adam (centre) at Frontier's Tanzania camp in the Kilombero Valley (For more photos check out the Frontier Savannah Facebook page)
Into The Wild: What would you say the best thing about the Tanzania Wildlife Tracking and Community Adventure project?
Adam: Pin pointing one aspect is nigh on impossible, the breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, the stars, the cacophony of birds at dawn, the list is vast. But I have to say they best thing is the people, my staff both local and international have been fantastic and the local villagers are extremely friendly, it’s a pleasure to be a part of their community and culture.
Into The Wild: Describe a typical day on the project.
Adam: Our days vary greatly depending on work but typically we will wake up early and either head out to mist net for birds or check amphibian or small mammal traps set the night before. We get back around mid morning and settle into a cup of tea and breakfast. Because of the heat the middle of the day is spent doing non-strenuous work, maybe research, teaching the local kids or relaxing with a good book. Afternoons we might re-set traps, go for a walk towards the wildlife management area or head into town to pick up supplies for dinner. Evenings are a communal affair sat around the table illuminated by kerosene lamps playing cards, listening to short lectures/talks or heading out to the local bar for a cold beer or Konyagi & soda! This routine will change drastically soon however with the commencement of a new contract of work for KVTC.
Into The Wild: What conservation or development work does the project carry out? What difference does this make to the local community?
Adam: The main focus of the project for the past three years has been the development of wildlife management areas for the surrounding villages. The completion of these will allow the locals to benefit from hunting within these areas stopping them from turning the forests into agricultural land. We are also undertaking surveys in the local area to keep a track on the effects that rapid immigration and expansion in the area is having on biodiversity. Through this we are able to teach a variety of surveying techniques.
The beautiful surrounding area near Frontier's camp (For more photos check out the Frontier Savannah Facebook page)
Into The Wild: What free time will volunteers have and what can they do in their spare time on the project?
Adam: The middle of the day is often free time and we have the odd day and afternoon off. Volunteers can teach at the school, brush up on their Swahili, head to the local village for some bongo flava, play football with locals, learn local crafts or just relax with like minded people.
Into The Wild: What animals can volunteers expect to encounter?
Adam: The surveying that we do allows volunteers to get up close and personal with a vast array of the smaller side of African wildlife. You can expect to handle mice, a multitude of birds, insects, frogs, skinks and the occasional non venomous snake. Our camp itself often sees a troop of vervet monkeys passing through and is home to some rather large Nile monitors. Although there are some big African game in the local area the habitat is extremely dense so it is very unlikely for us to encounter them day to day when out in the forest. We do have the opportunity to head to Mikumi National Park which is home to Elephants, lions and several species of antelope.
Into The Wild: What are the conservation issues the project looks to address?
Adam: The biggest issue in the Kilombero is its fertility. The land is some of the best in Tanzania for agriculture and as such it has seen a mass migration into the area with many villages expanding at an alarming rate. Land conversion from pristine forest into farmland is occurring rapidly and threatens to completely destroy what was once the most bio diverse area in Tanzania outside of a protected area. The Kilombero valley was traditionally used by elephants as a migration route between the Selous Game Reserve and the Udzungwa National Park (UNP), however, the recent increase in development has closed this corridor off. We are working to secure areas to re-establish this corridor, otherwise elephant populations located in UNP will soon exceed their carrying capacity and will become extremely destructive. Not good in a fragile ecosystem that is vital for the survival of many endemic and rare amphibians. We work closely with a local commercial timber company who are preserving 70%of their land for conservation purposes much of which lies within the corridor.
Into The Wild: How does the project interact with the local community to create lasting and sustainable results?
An example of the smaller side of African wildlife that volunteers can expect to encounter (For more photos check out the Frontier Savannah Facebook page)
Adam: Our project has always relied on assisting the community in making their own decisions not forcing them to subscribe to ours. By doing this it gives the local villages a sense of ownership and pride in their ability to preserve the forests hopefully giving the project sustainability above and beyond that instigated by Frontier itself. This also reduces any sense of resentment that used to occur with the more traditional approach employed by conservationists in the past. We host a lot of workshops and village meetings to ensure that information is disseminated throughout the people and the decisions are not just known to the elite few. We have recently begun a series of lectures at the local schools to get the new generation interested in the natural world in the hopes that they will preserve it into the future.
Into The Wild: What's the accommodation like on the project?
Adam: The accommodation is very......rustic. We live in teak-walled bandas with palm thatched roofs, mud floors and foam mattress’ but I wouldn’t change it for the world, except maybe for a fan or occasional air con. Volunteers sleep in shared accommodation allowing them to bond closely with others. Occasionally when out on long term research we utilise week long satcamps, sharing tents with fellow volunteers in the bush. Take a look at our facebook page for a camp tour!
Into The Wild: What tasks will volunteers be expected to carry out on camp? What sort of food will they be eating?
Adam: On camp we all pitch in with chores, washing up, making bread, blowing the long drop and sweeping to name a few. The food is generally rice and beans for lunch and dinner with the occasional vegetables thrown in and bread for breakfast. On treat days we get in some local meat. The fruit on offer is astounding, dependant on season; the best tasting bananas, mangos, papaya, passion fruit and pineapple are available.
A tour of the camp
Into The Wild: What is the local area and surroundings like and how much will volunteers experience of the local Tanzanian culture?
Adam: The local area is a rapidly expanding village full of vibrancy and colour. The views from the hill are spectacular, especially at dawn, and bring a sense of peace that’s hard to match Volunteers experience of local culture is largely dependant on the individual. Our camp, although located within a village, can become a shield from local culture if you only leave to work. But, many volunteers have tried their best to pick up Swahili and really integrated themselves with the locals experiencing some fantastic cultural events and becoming firm friends with neighbouring families.
Into The Wild: What qualifications can volunteers earn on this project?
Adam: Volunteers can undertake BTECs, TEFLs and CoPE certificates. In the future we hope to create a certificate to demonstrate the knowledge gained in surveying techniques while here.
Into The Wild: In what ways do you think being involved in the project can help further volunteers' careers?
Adam: The scientific knowledge gained here will greatly assist anyone going into a conservation field. In my time here two volunteers have used qualifications (BTEC and CoPE) undertaken here to secure places at university. Beyond conservation just being here develops everyone as a person giving them skill sets and an understanding that can only be achieved from an experience like this. You very quickly learn what life is really about when you pump all of your own water and don’t have endless gadgets and media at your fingertips.
For more information on this excellent hands-on project, as well as other opportunities to volunteer abroad, please visit the Frontier website. Also check out Frontier Tanzania Savannah Facebook page for all the latest updates, photos and videos.