The Mkuru Ecovillage is an innovative, multidisciplinary and community driven system to support communities living in the Mount Meru eco-system (Northern Tanzania) in improving their livelihood through a sustainable use of natural resources.
By investing in vocational trainings, education programs at all level, academic research, start ups of small income generating activities and women empowerment, the Mkuru Ecovillage aims at increasing food security, rural productivity, savings and investments among vulnerable communities and socio-economic development.
OIKOS Institute - ItalyLead applicant
Tutelare ambiente e necessità dell’uomo con un approccio integrato: molti strumenti, un quadro coerente. Analisi e pianificazione partecipata delle risorse naturali, sensibilizzazione, formazione, progetti per l’autonomia economica delle comunità disagiate e per un ruolo più ampio delle donne. E ancora, cooperazione tra organismi del Nord e del Sud, creazione di microimprese in campo ambientale, educazione alla sostenibilità.
Mkuru Training Camp - TanzaniaInitiative partner
Mkuru Training Camp (MTC) is a field station where knowledge and good practices of water, soil, forests, wildlife and energy management are developed and promoted, in collaboration with the Mkuru community, to ensure the long term maintenance of the natural systems and thus a future to local people. It is located in Mkuru subvillage (Uwiro Village), at the foothills of Mount Meru, just outside Arusha National Park, in a strategic position within the complex, fragile and beautiful Meru-Kilimanjaro natural system (see The Area). MTC was established in 2003 by Istituto Oikos, in collaboration with Oikos East Africa, the University of Insubria and the local authorities and communities, as a base camp and training field station to manage conservation and development projects in Northern Tanzania. Since then, Oikos has been working with the local Meru, Maasai and Warusha communities to experience and promote good practices and innovative approaches aimed at making environmental conservation a pillar of socio-economic development. The camp has always offered vocational trainings, literacy courses and awareness raising initiatives with the goal of increasing the local population skills in managing their natural resources and in making a living out of their sustainable use. More than 2000 local people have been trained at MTC in the last 10 years. Three income generating activities in the renewable energy, handicraft and eco-tourism sectors have been started and are currently independently managed by local people, giving employment to about 300 people. The camp also offered research, training and cultural exchange opportunities for national and international universities, bachelor, Master and PhD students interested in the environmental sustainability aspects in the framework of international cooperation
Oikos East Africa - TanzaniaInitiative partner
an innovative, multidisciplinary and community driven approach to support the population of the Mount Meru area (Tanzania) in fighting its way out of poverty though a sustainable use of natural resources
Bringing people together from all over the world to strengthen local experiences and to join forces with the local communities in order to support their challenging path towards sustainability is a key successful strategy.
The innovation of the Mkuro Ecovillage lies in its ability to integrate local, national and international skills in addressing climate change hazards, increasing food security and rural productivity, promoting savings and investments among vulnerable communities.
Its force has its roots also in the application of an integrated approach, which always operates on different levels: improving farmers and livestock keepers’ land use practices; strengthening technical assistance and village governance; addressing water management for agricultural and livestock purposes; increasing forest/tree cover; promoting the agro-ecosystem stability; empowering the most vulnerable components of the society (disables, women and children).
Mkuru is next to the Arusha National Park, within the Meru-Kilimanjaro ecosystem, in one of the most important biodiversity areas of the country: the Maasai Steppe, a territory mainly inhabited by Maasai shepherds. In Tanzania 89% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars per day and Mkuru is no exception. The area is close to the rapidly expanding Arusha municipality and it is shaped by the presence of Mount Meru, a volcano covered by a catchment forest that acts as a key source of water for 500,000 people. The Meru forests and fertile foothills have been over-exploited to meet the needs of a fast-growing population. Most of the catchment forest is preserved within park, but human encroachment is very high and the agro-ecosystems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate instability. Due to land degradation and soil erosion the Mount Meru is losing its capacity to provide the ecosystem services that lie at the heart of the livelihood of the local people.
In the Mkruru Ecovillage the goal is to make environmental conservation a pillar of socio-economic development. It has been established a Training Camp (www.mkurutrainingcamp.org), where vocational trainings, literacy courses and awareness raising initiatives are constantly offered with the goal of increasing the local population skills in managing their natural resources and in making a living out of their sustainable use. More than 2000 local people have been trained. Three income generating activities in the renewable energy (cercngarenanyuki.blogspot.com), handicraft (www.maasaiwomenart.org) and eco-tourism (www.mkurutrainingcamp.org) sectors have been started and are currently independently managed by local people, giving employment to about 300 people.
The Mkuru camp also offered research, training and cultural exchange opportunities for national and international universities, bachelor, Master and PhD students interested in the environmental sustainability.
The Meru-Kilimanjaro ecosystem is providing environmental services that are vital for at least 290,000 people.
At the same time, the system is intrinsically fragile and this fragility is exacerbated by climate change hazards, inappropriate land management practices and the increasing pressure on natural resources due to population increase. These constraints, associated with poor technical knowledge and assistance and lack of land use planning, are causing concrete challenges to the economic and ecological sustainability of both agriculture and livestock keeping and are threatening livelihood to such an extent that out-migration is rapidly increasing, especially among young Maasai.
A thorough understanding of the main hazards to the long-term conservation of the ecosystem is a pre-condition to the development of a strategy capable of addressing the major environmental challenges and guarantying a future to the local population.
Istituto Oikos' and Oikos East Africa's staff have been working for the establishment of Mkuru ecovillage, with the partcipation and help of local communities.
Among the many people that have contributed to the success of the inititive, the following had a particularly important role:
Ramadhani Kupaza - Oikos East Africa director
Rossella Rossi - Istituto Oikos director
Silvia Ceppi - Istituto Oikos scientific supervisor (PhD in ecology of nutrition)
All the village chiefs of the Mkuru community.
The main difficulties encountered are two. The first is linked to local political and institutional reality. It has been difficult to work at all the different level of society (district, ward, village, sub-village) and to find ways to valorize sinergies and to smooth conflict and existing tensions in order to work together towards common goals. To overcome this problem the moderation and ability of community experts has been crucial. The presence of Istituto Oikos in Tanzania since 1997 has greatly helped in building a trust relatioship with local community and in finding space for constructive dialogue. The second challenge has been to combine long term objectives and expected results with short term needs and desires. This was ovecome by running some long term and more complex initiatives and, at the same time, offering short training modules and tangible services.
Promoting a sustainable use of natural resources and climate change adaptation strategies Mkuru ecovillage has a positive impact on environment.
Thanks to the Maasai Women Art inititive the women of the area have significantly reduce the cut of trees fot charcoal production and the status of the local vegetation has improved.
All Mkuru Trainig Camp is powered by renewable energy, the food is cooked on energy efficient stoves to reduce fuel use.
All Mkuru Ecovillage activites focus on improving the health of the local enviroment. One of the main focus over the last three years has been training small scale farmers on sustainable agricultural practices.
The eco-village has been built by local communities, on their priority needs, challenges, knowledge and experiences. Community empowerment has been be secured through participation and leadership in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating. The target groups contribution in cash or in kind, congruent with their ability to pay, built sense of ownership. Plans to make the eco-village self-sustaining will include financial mechanisms and a strong participation of the local and scientific institutions. Lastly, the presence of Mkuru Training Camp as a reference points for local and international scientists make Mkuru eco-village a permanent laboratory to design and test technologies and strategies to address climate-change hazards.
Other initiatives connected to it are the establishment of the Mkuru Training Camp (http://www.mkurutrainingcamp.org/), Mkuru Camel Safari (http://www.mkurucamelsafari.com/) and the initiative Maasai women art (http://maasaiwomenart.org/).
Theatre, video, posters, and peer to peer communication have been the most common strategies used.