Jane Goodall Hopecast Episode 13: Emmanuel Mtiti

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Full Transcript:

Jane Goodall 0:05
JANESPLASH: Mr. H was given to me in 1986. And he’s been with me to 65 countries. He was given to me by a man who went blind when he was 21. And he decided for some bizarre reason to become a magician. And everybody said, but Gary, you can’t be a good magician, if you’re blind. He said, Well, I can try. So he does shows for children. Children don’t realize his blind. And at the end, he will tell them and say, you know, things may go wrong in your life, because we never know, but if they do, don’t give up. There’s always a way forward. And he does scuba diving, cross country skiing skydiving, and he’s now taught himself to paint, which I think is the most amazing of all. So, he thought he was giving me a stuffed chimpanzee for my birthday. And I made him hold the tail. I said, Gary, chimps don’t have tails. So he said, nevermind, take him with you and you know my spirit’s with you. So I began taking him around to illustrate this indomitable human spirit. I tell people, if you touch him that the inspiration rubs off. So I would say he’s been touched and stroked and hugged by at least, I mean, over 2 million people. It has to be over this time. And he does sleepovers sometimes. And he went off with some of my Native American friends and he came back and he was wearing a headdress. They’ve made him a little headdress with feathers. So he’s very, very famous, very special.

CONSERVATION CHOIR: Together we can achieve more. When we foster our relationship with animals it allows our survival. She is unwavering in her mission and has proven that one person can unite others. I aspire to change the world, too, because of the hope she gave me. She devoted her life it. Together we can save the world. Together we can, together we will. What is your greatest reason for hope? I’m Jane Goodall. And this is the Hopecast.

INTRO: Today I’m lucky enough to be with Emmanuel Mtiti, someone I’ve known and worked with for nearly three decades. In 1994, Mtiti, my friend George Strunden and I started Tacare, a community driven conservation project to begin with just 12 villages around Gombe National Park. Today, Tacare encompasses more than 104 villages throughout chimpanzee range in western Tanzania. And Mtiti continues to work tirelessly to advance community centered conservation in the region. He is currently Senior Program Policy Director of the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania. I hope you enjoy this hopeful conversation with Emmanuel Mtiti.

INTERVIEW: I am absolutely delighted to welcome to this podcast, Emmanuel Mtiti. I’m really looking forward to talking to you. And it’s just terrible how long I haven’t actually been physically in your presence. I can hardly believe it’s more than one year.

Emmanuel Mtiti 3:31
It’s my pleasure. It has been quite a long time. You know, you used to come twice a year. We miss you.

Jane Goodall 3:39
While I was thinking about this podcast, I was thinking, you know, I’m going to say hello Mtiti. And you’re going to say hello, Jane. And I suddenly thought, we take it for granted your Mtiti and then there’s Kushala. And isn’t it strange that we call you your second name? I never call you Emmanuel but I’ve noticed a lot of Americans do.

Emmanuel Mtiti 4:02
Yeah, I think you’re handling it naturally. I mean, in African countries, we nurture our family names. For people from outside Africa, they prefer first names. So, I’m comfortable with any.

Jane Goodall 4:16
I very well remember flying over Gombe National Park. It was the late 80s. And looking down I was absolutely shocked because in 1960, you know, the Gombe National Park, the area around, was part of that equatorial forest belt and went all the way from East Africa to the West African coast. And by 1990, Gombe was a little island of forest surrounded by completely bare hills, just a few green rays in the valleys, especially on the really steep slopes. But it was very obvious there were more people living there than the land could support and people were struggling to survive. And that’s when it hit me, viscerally, that if we don’t help these people find ways of making a living without destroying the environment, we cannot save chimpanzees, forests, or anything else, including their own future. So the whole aim of Tacare was to improve the lives of the local people, to help them understand and work with the idea that the future is in their hands, this is their land. And all we’re trying to do is to work with them, to help them and to help wildlife, too. We met a long, long, long time ago, and it was 1995. Remember, those early days have Tacare when we would go into a village, and we had this wonderful group of ladies who sang songs. And do you remember, they had their little banners, and they’d pop up education and they’d pop up agriculture and they’d pop up animals or something. Do you remember that?

Emmanuel Mtiti 6:08
Yes, I do.

Jane Goodall 6:09
And people used to gather to hear the songs. I think that was George’s idea, wasn’t it?

It was.

it was wonderful to be able to get together with George Strunden, he was a wonderful person and really, really got Tacare going. But that’s how we began. Very simple, very small, little groups going into the villages. And you know, at that time, Mtiti, most of the other big NGOs, they put together a group of American/European specialists, when they go into the village with probably an interpreter, and basically say, well, you aren’t doing very well. And so we’ve planned to help you do better. And this is what you’re going to do. This is what we’re going to do for you. And George’s brilliance was going into the village with Tanzanians with you and Kushala and Mary, and basically listening to the village leaders and asking them, what do you think is most important? How can we help you?

Yes, that was it. We had to spend nights in villages and one was to get time to talk to people and educate them. But secondly, it was about creating a relationship with the village. We spent nights or they came to our camp, and we made fire. So we set around that fire, we ate together, and they gave us information about their village. And we get a lot of support as they were providing us with a lot of information because of the trust. We did create this atmosphere of friendliness and trust among us and the villagers.

Yes, well, I think the important thing is about Tacare is that so many groups come in, and they do something with the villages, and then they go away and write it up as a PhD or something. And I think the people came to trust JGI because we stayed. We haven’t gone away. And that was 30 years ago. And you know, gradually, more and more interventions took place. And that was only because the villagers trusted us. And basically, we worked with them to achieve a goal that was good for the villagers and good for the environment. And of course good for the chimps, as well. But that was another of George’s great skills, I think. He never, never talked at the beginning about conserving wildlife. It was always about improving things for the villagers. So we were very, very lucky. I mean, look what Tacare has done and how it’s grown from those 12 villages to what is it 104, now?

Emmanuel Mtiti 8:54
Yeah.

Jane Goodall 8:55
Mtiti, how did you begin? What sort of family were you in? And where were you?

I was raised in a family as a single child. And then later, I got my three other sisters from a different mother. Yeah, I was born in a lake village along Lake Tanganyika, and we could collect firewood just behind our homes. Our farms were fertile. We had a lot of fish to eat all the time. And then slowly, we moved to the urban centers. So we lived there and then I went to school.

So Mtiti, before you join Tacare, what organization were you working for?

I was trained in medical background. And then I was working with a Regional Hospital. And then I got a training on promoting health education and advocacy. And that’s the time when you and George came to see me. I was the Regional Coordinator for HIV/AIDS project and then I was supporting other projects like the family planning and have in that region. I was put to advise on how can we do community based education community based prevention strategies. So I used to run campaigns, and I used to collect information and data. And I used to bring communities closer to understand what it all meant. So we came to know each other. And by then you remember, Jane, the project was about halfway. I saw from your eyes and your explanations, that you had this strong feeling that if you get good people, the project can continue. It was initially funded by EU, and it was a three year project. So you give me a lot of trust, and you made me think of dropping my permanent employment. It’s because you inspired me and, and I trusted you. And I knew that together, we have a lot of potential to get the project going. So that’s how I moved from the health side, coming into environment. And when I joined the Tacare project, I got, you arranged for a number of training for me, I went to US, I was with them, I was overseas in US, trying to learn. And then I went to a number of other schools to get to know much of the environment. But I was lucky that during my training on, on education, I had to learn things that were related to environment. Medical entomology, is all about how insects cause diseases to human being. Or these primary healthcare projects like malaria prevention, and others, which are basically, if you’re studying communicable diseases, most of them are connected to the environment. So that’s when my interest in environment started.

You know, Mtiti, it’s taken the rest of the world a long time to catch up with this interconnection between environment and health and education, because you can’t separate them. And I remember George and I went to the EU quite a few times, to try and get a grant to start up Tacare. And you know, the biggest problem two problems one, they said, but you can’t do everything, you can’t do health, education, agriculture, and so on, you’ve got to choose. And I remember saying, but what’s the point of educating the woman, if she goes back to her village and immediately gets sick, because there’s no proper health facility there? You’ve got to see it all as one. And now finally, we have this one health thing which is spreading around Africa. But you got it right from the start. And finally, we got a grant that was spread over three years.

The thought of trying to save the chimps was something that was very, very difficult to imagine, but I knew that I had to do it. So, George came in very strongly with his understanding of working with the villagers. And I came in with understanding about the environment. And I was so lucky, Mtiti, because it’s out in the rain forest, that I got to understand the interconnection of all living things, and how each little species may seem insignificant, but it may play a very important role in that ecosystem. And if you look back, and think about what Tacare does today, what changes there’ve been and the way people think about the environment.

Definitely, there is a big change to improve methods and techniques on how to manage the forest. So the first fund was for when you go to people and and start planting, planting tree. But then Jane, you remember, as we were out talking to people, we realized, it’s not the only problem. They had some other pressing needs, like health, education. It’s not only just planting trees, and this holistic approach of working with communities in a number of things that are integrated. That’s what we called Tacare. So it was a learning curve. But when we tried to explain this to donors, that’s where we faced problems that you have been mentioning. They said, you cannot do everything. You know, it’s not like that. And they give us a lot of examples. And then I remember there was one expert who said, community conservation does not work. I can give you literature to read. And it was I’m sort of discouraging, but she said, okay, we accept your, your literature. But let us try what we want to do. It started with you. And then it was, you inspired us to do what we believed in. Having seen that donors are still behind what we are thinking. We had this, the second challenge, which was to try to pull in different funding for different activities, but implemented by one project. And then we said together with a community, trying to forge a way on how can we do it. So until today, we are still holistic. And the third thing was now, how do we make our donors understand that integrated projects do, do work better than individual projects. Now, it’s really encouraging. And not only to the people that even our donors have understood, and other people and development workers have now understood that you can do things in a holistic way. To the community, it increased our credibility. They didn’t consider us to be tree planters. In us, they saw friends who have come to help them solve their livelihood, and their living issues. So they trusted us quite a lot. And in so doing, they tried to acquire as much information and education. And now we see people doing it themselves. Our approach nowadays is based on land use planning. It’s not an easy job to tell people to plan for their land, with increasing population. And you can see that they’re heavily and democratically planning for how, how they’re going to use their land. This is a piece where we are going to, to settle. And this is a piece where we are going to farm. We are living in this forest because it’s our water catchment. And this is where we are, we are going to protect the forest to be our village for us to live. Each village now in the Tacare villages, has a forest reserve.

Yes, and we at some point brought in Lilian Pintea, to try and integrate his cutting edge science with GIS/GPS satellite imagery. I remember seeing pictures of that first time when Lilian, I think you were with him, going up to a village. And it was the start of land use planning. And the village had drawn a map in the sand with a stick. And Lillian produced a high resolution map. And this woman, looking at it with amazement and saying, that’s the tree I put my baby under when I’m working in the fields. So it was easier for them to make the boundary between two villages, which was sometimes a point of contention, to make it very clear on these high resolution maps. This woman, I don’t know if you remember her, but she had a farm that was up on one of these steep slopes. And she completely agrees that she shouldn’t farm there anymore, because it’s bad. And there might be another landslide. So she’s happy to walk a whole extra hour, every morning to her fields, carrying her baby, because she understands. That’s what Tacare has done. It is everything integrated. It’s kind of magic, to me, the way it’s all woven together, just like in the forest.

In most cases, especially advanced technology is used to appear like, it’s forge educated people. What we did together with Lilian was to make technology this simple, community GIS, community mapping, you know, so we started with those, those terminologies. And in fact, it has been very helpful. Our people can use easily, use GPS. And now people can interpret high resolution maps. We also use the drone technology, which was broader. They are very happy. And that’s why, really, community approach works very well. We just sit with the community, they tell us what to do. And we just follow their way. And now in the stage where we are, we are transferring our responsibilities to the community to take it all. Sometimes I think, like, what will JGI be doing in the future.

But Mtiti, we can come back now to the chimps, because all around Gombe, there’s this buffer zone to protect chimps from people and people from chimps. And they’re beginning to put land aside to make these corridors so that the Gombe chimps can link up again. The last two years, I think, four females have come in to Gombe from outside. So it’s come right full circle back to where it began. And then the last little piece that’s so important is education of children. That’s where Roots and Shoots comes in.

Yes, definitely. Well, talking about the corridor, the corridor, it all belongs to the community. It’s totally 100% village led. Now you can see how people feel how important it is to conserve forest and chimpanzees. So they dedicate this piece of forest that is connected to one another, to be the corridor. It’s now a nationally recognized corridor. But it’s people’s land, who have just sacrificed that for conservation and wildlife habitat. Researchers have done tremendous work to educate students, they form clubs, they get that passion to do conservation. And some of them, they get the passion to go and study conservation, or environment, I think things like that. Where we’re ministers, who were once Roots and Shoots members. We have had regional commissioners and DC commissioners, who once were Roots and Shoots members. But the way that they manage their districts or their regions, you can see the difference. Someone who was a Roots and Shoots member assists and promotes conservation. So Roots and Shoots have done quite a lot of changes in, in human life in, especially, in Tanzania.

Roots and Shoots, as its name might imply, is really a grassroots movement. It grows because people want it and it changes lives. You think people in Tanzania are beginning to understand what a pangolin is now?

Yes. In the past, they used to, somehow, kill it, so that they get the scales. They believe that the scales can do a number of things. But, but now that when they see them in urban places, they get them out and release them in, in protected forest.

Everything has a role to play. Every person, every animal, every species of plant and tree.

The Tacare type programs in Uganda, and DRC and Mali and Senegal, and Burundi, they’re all basically the same. And they’re beginning to call them Tacare. We’re saying Tacare is the Jane Goodall Institute method of community based conservation, very holistic. And because it’s been so successful, Lilian and I started talking about making a book, so that we could explain how Tacare worked. And we could start scaling up, because Tacare can work anywhere. So that book, I know, is almost finished, and what did you contribute to it, Mtiti?

My contribution was on history and methodology. We are now convinced that our culture has worked and we want to share it with, with the rest of the world. So we see that we have a huge army, if we get the people themselves to do it. At the end of the day, they’ll be happy and they will say we have done it ourselves. It goes with the community. So let the community decide on how they want to adopt it. And to implement it. I had a visitor from US, and then they came and saw how communities were reacting on land use planning. Actually, we didn’t interfere in informing them about, about what we are doing within those land planning. So it’s with the community themselves explaining, drawing the map of their village and the way they have put their, they have divided their land for different uses. And he said to me, you know, you have been successful in doing something that we have failed doing in the US. How do you promote community to get involved and to be at the center of, of your operation. So we think this is something that you can share, and they can adopt it the way they want.

Mtiti, Tacare, we’ve reached the stage of feeling we’re now able to share the whole concept with the world. So truly in the next few years, how do you see Tacare progressing?

The next level is to have the governments understand and change the way they operate. We are doing this in Tanzania. You know the governments are run by technocrats, they still hold to working in silos. So if they can use their knowledge, their education, to do things in a holistic way, we have been very successful at ground level, at community level, and even some other levels above community, like a district level and regional level. But the next question is, how can Tacare be all operate at national level? Roots and Shoots is helping us to spread that idea very fast. But we need now to strengthen the approach and consolidate.

I would think one way is if we try and get Tacare into school and university curriculum, so that they will start learning about the whole principle of Tacare when they’re still at school, and just like Roots and Shoots, they will take that with them as they grow up.

Our new approach has been to expand and consolidate the Tacare approach, starting with Landscape Conservation in western Tanzania, which is funded by USAID, American Development Aid Agency, where we have the remaining chimpanzee population, we’re in western Tanzania. And in so doing, we were lucky and very thankful to be supported by an American development agency that gave us support to be able to roll out, I mean to expand, the Tacare approach in western Tanzania. So, this is what we are calling the Landscape Conservation in western Tanzania. And this is an expansion and consolidation of the Tacare approach in the whole of the chimpanzee land in Western Tanzania. We call it LCWT project, which is Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania, has made it possible for us to expand the number of villages from 54 to 104. And it has made it possible for us to incorporate in now operation two long standing refugee settlements from Burundi and Rwanda. In our initial approach, these were left out because we didn’t have enough funding to incorporate. This project has consolidated and is operationalizing the village landings planning, which has now become the basis of our conservation. So we, we are implementing a land use based conservation in that area. Now that we have expanded the area, we really have to manage this area properly. Because the area is big, there are areas that are not set up by people, such areas has been gazetted to become UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. So we are now putting all the pieces together in that Tacare approach and bringing people and environment and wildlife together. And this area has now become man and biosphere reserve. We call it the Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere, Man and Biosphere Reserve. And it has given us an opportunity to think more and, and also consolidate the alternative livelihood for the people who live in that area. Because the community in this area dependent so much on the natural resources for their livelihood. Now this project has given us the ability to work with the community to look at a sustainable use of natural resources. For example, we are now promoting beekeeping, taking it to another level so that they don’t depend on charcoal. Instead, they, they do beekeeping and then they save the honey. The LCWT has enabled us to invest in a more focused and more robust education, which is behavior change communication for the communities. And we are consolidating or empowering, now, the government to take over whatever we are implementing. So that’s the LCWT view the capacity, capacity of local government to be able to manage the resources because the government has been there and will still be there until the end of the work, to the end of the work. But they need to make proper decisions and they need to own those decisions that are in favor of conservation.

Well, Mtiti, this has been an absolutely wonderful conversation. I always love talking to you. And thanks so much for giving your time. And I once again look forward to when we can be talking face to face in person but this is better than nothing.

Thank you so much, Jane. It always has been a pleasure talking to you and exchanging ideas. And I’m looking forward to seeing you again in Tanzania.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: It was when I flew over the whole area about 16 years ago, and realized that outside the park, this forest, which in 1960 had stretched almost unbroken along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, which is where the tiny 30 square mile Gombe National Park lies, that a question came to my mind. How can we even try to save these famous chimpanzees, when the people living around the National Park are struggling to survive? This led to a program which we call Tacare. It’s a very holistic way of improving the lives of the people living in the villages around the park. It started small with 12 villages. It’s now in 24.

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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Communications & Policy Officer at the Jane Goodall Institute, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is currently pursuing a MS in Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University. She has a varied background including conservation, art, communications, digital media, design, photography, and documentary filmmaking. Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in magic of storytelling to change hearts and minds. Through growing understanding and empathy, she believes it is possible to ignite positive change, every day.