Institutional and Cartographic Analysis on gazetted boundaries of the former Saadani Game Reserve and the current Saadani National Park

Research Report

Cartographic analysis on boundary changes made to the area comprising the former Saadani Game Reserve in the process of establishing Saadani National Park.

Report included in the ICCA CONSORTIUM letter to Honourable Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United Republic of Tanzania

Ref: Concerning the Uvinje Land and Conservation Grievance in Saadani Village, Pwani, northeast Tanzania (January 2016)

 Prepared by Alejandra Orozco, PhD (Geography),

University of Victoria, Canada.


Saadani Game Reserve (SGR) was officially gazetted in 1974 upon the request and with the full support of Saadani village, which willingly gave up some of its land for the Reserve. In the late 1990’s TANAPA came in to upgrade the Game Reserve to a national park.  In the process however, the original collectively agreed upon boundaries of the SGR appear to have been modified to such an extent that after the inception of Saadani National Park in 2005, inhabitants of Uvinje and Porokanya, Saadani’s two main coastal sub-villages, suddenly became illegal settlers of their own ancestral lands and squatters of the park.

To understand what happened in the transition from Saadani Game Reserve to Saadani National Park, Saadani Village Council requested an assessment of the conditions leading to the dispossession of Uvinje and Porokanya villagers. This is a summary report of this assessment, which was presented to the Saadani Village Council in June 2014.

1. Document Research

A 1997 report on tourism potential in SGR commissioned by The Department of Wildlife from the Institute for Resource Assessment at the University of Dar Es Salaam, has provided the oldest map of the reserve found so far. Map 1 (below) shows the report’s map of SGR (which is identified as No. 3). Also included in the report is a geographically referenced version of the map, shown below as Map 2. This SGR map shows that the extent of beach lands included in the reserve were small.

The report also states that the reserve’s beach is “not as expansive as perceived”. In reality, only “up to 2.5km” [of beach stretch from Mvave river, located north of Saadani village center] up to Kijitokombe river mouth, [the south boundary of Uvinje sub-village], comprise the totality of the reserve’s coastal stretch (Institute of Resource Assessment, 1997). The contents of the report are particularly important to verify spatial arrangements at the time of the reserve, since the report was commissioned by the Department of Wildlife itself, and is in agreement with the reserve’s gazette.

2. Saadani Game Reserve Gazette

Equally important in understanding the agreement between the Department of Wildlife and Saadani village is the original gazette of SGR (1974), presented below as Document 1. Although vague in the description of SGR boundaries, the gazette states that SGR’s east boundary was demarcated by a cleared and beaconed line. Located at the heart of Saadani village territory, the Saadani game reserve was surrounded to the West by a portion of Saadani’s village territory (identified in the map 1 as Open Land) and the Zaraninge Forest Reserve, and to the East by the strip of lands comprising Saadani’s coastal settlements.

Map 1.Georeferenced version of the map, also included in the 1997 Report Commissioned by the Wildlife Division from the University of Dar Es Salaam. IRA-UDS Library.

Map 2.Saadani Game Reserve map included in the 1997 Report Commissioned by the Wildlife Division from the University of Dar Es Salaam. IRA-UDS Library.

Document 1.Original gazette of the community-initiated Saadani Game Reserve

3. Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA) maps of Saadani Game (SGR) Reserve and Saadani National Park (SANAPA)

In the late 1990s when TANAPA came to upgrade the reserve to a national park a process of consultation with authorities at various levels ensued. The national park was to be larger than the reserve and additional land was to be added to the north, west and southern sides of the reserve. Park establishment records show that at no point in time did TANAPA request any of Saadani’s inhabited coastal settlement, but instead directly stated that Uvinje and Porokanya settlements were located within the reserve illegally and that villagers in this areas will be moved after the establishment of the park.

To support this statement, TANAPA presented its own map of the Saadani Game Reserve to District level authorities who gave the go ahead to establish the park. TANAPA’s maps of SGR and of SNP are presented as Map 3 below. As can be seen in TANAPA’s map, the reserves eastern boundary extended all the way to the coast, including in this way not only the totality of Uvinje and Porokanya, Saadani’s two main coastal sub-villages, but also part of the Saadani village center. Effectively, Saadani’s long inhabited coastal territory was reduced to a mere less than 12 km² after the park was gazetted.

4. Evidence of questionable changes to the eastern boundary of the original SGR

Cartographic analysis conducted as part of my doctoral research, directly suggests that the eastern boundary of the reserve was modified by TANAPA. Map 4, shows a zoomed view of the overlay of the two differently sourced map polygons on SGR, the one from TANAPA (which was created between 1999 and 2001) and the one from the report commissioned by the Department of Wildlife (dating back to 1996-1997). Added to this overlay are critical landmarks on Saadani’s inhabited sub-village areas and the location of two of the original SGR boundary beacons that were discovered by villagers during the period I conducted my field research (2012-2013). Neither the location of the beacons of the former reserve nor the map in the 1997 report describe the game reserve’s eastern boundary as extending all the way to sea. By definition then, the inhabited coastal sub-village areas of Uvinje and Porokanya were never included, by the Department of Wildlife, as part of the area comprising the original Saadani Game Reserve.

The overlay makes it clear that in TANAPA’s map the location of the reserve’s eastern boundary was actually changed to include the totality of Uvinje and Porokanya (Saadani’s two main coastal sub-villages), as well as part of the Saadani Village centre as part of the Reserve. According to park establishment records, TANAPA has consistently argued that Uvinje and Porokanya areas have always been within the reserve. No data has been found to suggest that district and other authorities were aware of the changes when the map was presented by TANAPA at the district level in the process of getting approval for the park.

Map 3.Original gazette of the community-initiated Saadani Game Reserve

Further analysis conducted using documents provided by Saadani villagers show the specific institutional strategy employed by TANAPA to rescind the land rights of the villagers. A 2014 letter written by TANAPA (or in its place SANAPA authorities) in response to a request made by lawyers involved in addressing the land rights of the villagers does illustrate the approach. This document (shown as Document 2 below) contains TANAPA’s interpretation of the 1974 gazette. In the particular case of the lands that pertain to Uvinje sub-village, to the 1974 boundary description TANAPA added the clauses “to where the river enters the ocean” and “from the mouth of the Mligaji River…(along the coast)” and fully omitted: “then in a southerly direction along a cleared and beaconed line..” (see the 4th line of the original 1974 SGR gazette). In the interpretation pertaining Porokanya’s lands, TANAPA just added the phrase ‘at Porokanya’ in line 9th where it say: to where the Wami River enters the sea “at Porokanya”.

Significantly, topographic and rainfall conditions of the Saadani coast are such that during rainy periods estuarine areas (where rivers enter the ocean) can extend up to 3 km up stream. This explains why the official gazette seems to suggest that the reserve’s eastern boundary extends up to the mouth of Mligaji and/or Wami rivers. Nonetheless, it is clear that a “cleared a beacon line” was built to demarcate the boundary at Uvinje and southwards. From such interpretation of the original gazette, one begs an answer to the question when has a ‘cleared and beaconed line’ been made along an ocean shore?

Document 2. TANAPA’s interpretation of the original 1974 SGR gazette notice (which is shown above as Document 1). (Source: TANAPA letter written to Lawyers for Environmental Action Team (LEAT).

In summary, both the map version of the reserve and the original gazette make it clear that Saadani village’s inhabited coastal lands were never park of the reserve and should have never been gazetted as part of Saadani National Park. Currently, Uvinje and Porokanya villagers are considered to be encroachers in their own ancestral lands and are about to be evicted, despite the fact that they were the ones initiating and supporting conservation, and that they have never consented to have their village settlements gazetted as part of the reserve or the park.

This situation is more appalling due to the fact that most of Saadani villagers, are yet to realize that, since the official establishment of the park in 2005, their current land rights include only a marginal 12km² of the close to 300km² that originally comprised their traditional lands (before the establishment of the reserve in 1974). Since the official establishment of the park (2005), Saadani villagers who have set aside over 50km² of coastal territory for their livelihoods, habitation and cultural practice, has been left with a meagre less than 12 km² as their entire village territory.

It is also relevant to note here that of these 12 km² left to the village includes seasonally flooded areas which are used for salt mining. Before this picture, one can only wonder how could the collective well-being and stewardship of a people who invited the state to unite forces against poaching be disregarded to such an extent as to render them fully dispossessed and portrayed as the enemies of conservation, and what is worse, that it has been all done in the name of environmental conservation!


 Figure 1.Beacon demarcating part of the original eastern boundary of the former Saadani Game Reserve (found in 2013 by Uvinje villagers)

  Figure 2.Beacon demarcating part of the original eastern boundary of the former Saadani Game Reserve (found in 2013 by Uvinje villagers)

 Figure3.Boundary beacon demarcating the limits of the current Saadani National Park