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When notorious poachers become horticultural farmers

JAMES Mambasa is a former notorious poacher and this, he admits himself, saying he did it to earn a living.

He used to kill a wide range of wild animals including wildebeest for bush meat, within wildliferich district of Serengeti in Mara Region for many years.

But Mambasa says poaching activities did not help to change his life until in the recent years when he became a member of Grumeti Horticultural and Marketing Cooperative Society (GHOMACOS).

“I used to be a proficient poacher. I know all the bushes and routes used by poachers but since I joined GHOMACOS I have never stepped my foot in the game conservation areas,” Mambasa told the ‘Daily News’ in Serengeti last week.

GHOMACOS was established in 2010 with the objective of enabling farmers and livestock keepers to sell their products at Singita Grumeti. A conservation and ecotourism company that operates world’s top luxurious lodges in Western Serengeti.

Presently GHOMACOS has 85 members including Mambasa who are benefiting from the programme. The members produce a wide range of products such as vegetables, fruits, eggs and chicken.

“The benefits of GHOMACOS is that it has created a market for the produce of its members,” said Christopher Mosi, the chairperson of the cooperative (GHOMACOS). Mambasa says GHOMACOS has made a big change on his life describing poaching as a dangerous job with no positive impact on poacher’s lives.

“I was a notorious poacher and my shoulders were also notorious for carrying bush meat”, the retired poacher said. Mambasa says despite that he wasted much of his lifetime on poaching activities he is now a happy man, thanks to the formation of GHOMACOS.

“I have made tremendous progress on my life after formation of GHOMACOS. I have built a house, paid dowry to my sons and I even have a television in my house that enables me to view news and what is happening on social networks”, the retired poacher narrates.

“I also have dairy cows, I am educating my children and several grandsons and everything have changed because of GHAMACOS”, he added. The idea to establish GHOMACOS came from the investor, a move that opened doors for the local communities to sell various fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat and other produce to Singita Grumeti.

“Formation of GHOMACOS has really helped to transform our lives and we thank the investor for the opportunity”, the Secretary of GHOMACOS Ms Amina Mohamed said. She said farmers who are members of GHOMACOS have been able to build houses as well as meeting educational needs for their children.

The annual income of GHOMACOS stands at an average of 700 million shillings but the payment is done by Singita Grumeti every month, according to Ms Amina. “Up-to-date we have only a single buyer which is Grumeti and we ask other investors with hotels in Serengeti to come and buy our produce”, Ms Mohamed said.

Singita Grumeti also buys beef from local livestock keepers through GHOMACOS. “We are selling about over 4,000 kilos of beef to Grumeti each year but the demand of meat and other produce increase during tourism’s high seasons”, Donald Kobare, another member of GHOMACOS said.

Kobare described Grumeti Reserves as an investor with a difference in supporting local development in the communities around wildlife conservation areas in Western Serengeti.

“We have immensely benefited from GHOMACOS. We have built houses, educated children and many good things. So we have every reason and thank Grumeti Reserves because they had directed much investment on community development and this had helped our communities to do away with the problems of poaching”, Mr Kobare said.

Ms Agnes Gamara, another member of GHOMACOS said she had succeeded to build a house and establishing poultry project among other things.

“I am now able to support education of my children and life is now going on well because of GHOMACOS”, Ms Agnes said. The local communities are now seeing Grumeti Reserves as the only investor helping to improve their living standards.

“We have many investors in Serengeti but they don’t mean much to us. Why can’t they learn from Singita Grumeti?” a now reformed Mambasa queried. Grumeti Reserves says it has created about 900 job opportunities after investing 175 million US dollars in Tanzania, thanks to favourable investment environment in the country.

Around 95 per cent of the Grumeti Reserve workers are Tanzanians. It is estimated that every single job supports eight people in rural Africa, according to the World Bank (WB). Mambasa said the investor has transformed him from being a poacher to be a proficient producer of tomatoes, onions, cabbages and many other types of vegetables.

“We used to engage in poaching because there was no option but now we have options”, Mambasa, a father and a grandfather of several children said. “I have a house which is roofed with iron sheets and dairy cows. This could not happen when I was a poacher ”, Mambasa added.

The former poacher is happy with the current efforts by the government in-collaboration with other stakeholders like Singita Grumeti to end poaching.

“My advice to the youth who still think of poaching in Serengeti is to stop because there are many opportunities and the government of today does not tolerate poaching acts. It is like the government in the past was on leave”, he added

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