REGROW Project Will Promote Tourism, Regional Development and Poverty Reduction Through a Conservation Approach
WASHINGTON, September 28, 2017 – Increased conservation and management of unique Protected Areas in Southern Tanzania, coupled with promotion of alternative livelihoods for rural communities and infrastructure development, will generate economic opportunities for the region, protect natural assets, and benefit nearly 40,000 households around the Protected Areas.
These results will be achieved over the next six years through a $150 million credit from the International Development Association* through the Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth Project ‘REGROW’, which was approved today by the World Bank.
REGROW, whose development objective is to improve the management of natural resources and tourism assets in priority areas of Southern Tanzania, and to increase access to alternative livelihood activities for targeted communities, will position the “Southern Circuit” as an engine of growth through tourism development and associated benefits; enable communities in the project area to enhance their incomes by linking them with resilient livelihoods; promote increased conservation of National Parks and Game Reserves; reduce human-wildlife conflict and strengthen resilience to climate vulnerability and change; and contribute towards safeguarding flows from the Great Ruaha River into the Ruaha National Park.
The “Southern Circuit” includes several National Parks (Katavi, Kitulo, Mahale, Udzungwa Mountains, Mikumi and Ruaha), Game Reserves (with Selous being the largest), two rift valley lakes (Nyasa and Tanganyika), areas of cultural interest, and access to the primary gateway town of Iringa. REGROW will promote investments inside four Protected Areas, considered to be catalytic for the consolidation of the Circuit: Ruaha, Mikumu and Udzungwa Mountains National Parks, and Selous Game Reserve. Combined, these areas cover 75,446 km2 (for reference, Switzerland covers 41,285 km2).
“Tourism is a key element of Tanzania’s economy, contributing to roughly 10 percent of GDP in 2015,” said Bella Bird, the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Somalia and Burundi. “The country is endowed with world renowned biodiversity and wildlife attractions, but most people tend to be familiar with just its Northern Circuit. The assets of the Southern Circuit can increase the number of tourists arriving to the country, thus increasing economic benefits and promoting wildlife conservation. For this to happen, infrastructure and services need to be improved, and the destination needs to be further promoted to potential visitors.”
The number of visitors has doubled over a short period, from about 500,000 in 2000 to over 1 million in 2015. Due to its success in attracting higher-spending tourism, the country now boasts the highest revenue/tourist ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa (double, for example, that of Kenya). Apart from being a reliable and resilient source of revenue for the government, the sector also provides well-remunerated direct employment to over 400,000 Tanzanians.
“By consolidating the Southern Circuit as a viable destination, Tanzania will guarantee a more diversified, robust tourism offering; the additional revenue generated in the Southern Circuit will facilitate the conservation of these unique, unspoiled Southern Protected Areas, and become an engine for regional growth. The diversification will also ease mounting pressures of the Northern Circuit, thus enabling its continued ability deliver a unique wildlife experience,” said Daniel Mira-Salama, the World Bank’s Senior Environmental Specialist who is also the Task Team Leader for REGROW.
REGROW will address some of the key challenges of the “Southern Circuit” to realize its potential. These include limited infrastructure inside the Protected Areas, coupled with environmental degradation; insufficient linkages between tourism and rural development; water resources trade-offs upstream of the Ruaha National Park, leading to water scarcity inside the Park, compounded by other climate variability and climate change impacts. REGROW will tackle those challenges through investments in key infrastructure, promotion of linkages between sites, positioning of Iringa as gateway town, attraction of private sector investments, branding and marketing, and creation of effective local supply chain linkages. Above all, success will depend on the bridging of the gap between conservation and sustained economic benefits for Tanzanians.
REGROW is to be implemented through four components that include strengthening management and improve infrastructure in priority areas; strengthening alternative livelihoods for targeted communities; strengthening landscape management and infrastructure investments in and upstream of the Ruaha National Park; and project management as well as institutional strengthening.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association, established in 1960, supports the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.