Management of Natural Resources in Tanzania: Is the Public Trust Doctrine of Any Relevance?

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"Management of natural resources in Tanzania has in recent days attracted a lot of debate and policy changes. For a long time the Tanzanian government has considered itself the sole manager of all natural resources obtainable in the country. This is in total contradiction to policy documents and statements that state that the government hold these natural resources in trust. The concept of trust assumes that someone else is the real owner and the trustee is holding it for a while until such time the beneficiary is capable of managing his/her property. In doing so, the trustee is supposed to manage the said property in the best interests of the beneficiary and not otherwise. To the government, however, this self-evident truth has always been equated to total ownership. This is because the policies and laws of the country did/do not define what trust means, the functions of the trustee and the obligations of the trustee to the beneficiary. "In carrying out this duty, the government created various institutions charged with the management of natural resources in the country. These institutions had one firm belief that they possessed expertise and knowledge in the utilization of natural resources and their views were sacred and could not be challenged or complemented by the knowledge from without. They had police powers of arresting and prosecuting any person who entered, for example, in national parks or forest reserves without having a valid permit or licence. Another feature of these institutions is that they were/are directly responsible to the minister of a respective ministry and not to the peoples organ, the Parliament. The lack of accountability to the Parliament and to the people at large has led to the creation of mini-empires to the detriment of natural resources. Corruption, nepotism, and victimization have been the order of the day. It is no wonder that wildlife resources, for instance, are experiencing dramatic decline. "As a related issue, these institutions have deliberately excluded the local communities in the management of natural resources. It is now a proven fact that local communities are indispensable managers of natural resources. Their exclusion has helped to explain the dwindling of natural resources in Tanzania for a long time. The local communities which have been denied direct access to resources that formed their pattern of life from time immemorial had no other alternative and became abettors of poaching activities and relinquished their role of protecting natural resources. The resultant effect of this is the unprecedented decline of natural resources in the country and a local community living in abject poverty. "At another level, government institutions lack skilled and sufficient staffs to oversee the management of these resources. The staff is unashamedly underpaid and equipped to manage this country's vast and unparalleled natural resources. To make the matter worse government allocates few resources to these institutions to manage and protect the natural resources. "This paper seeks to investigate the reasons behind the failure of natural resources management institutions in Tanzania and efforts underway to redress the situation."
IASC, common pool resources, resource management, natural resources, governance and politics, corruption, environmental degradation, institutional analysis