Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania

I've started my field work now, where I will be spending two and a half months in the Amani Nature Reserve, going to the surrounding villages to interview farmers about losing some (in some cases all) of their farmland to a new wildlife corridor that links two separate parts of the reserve.  I'm also interested in getting more information on the ecological restoration plan of the corridor, and try to interview all actors in the process, including government officials, NGO staff, and biologists who were involved in the process.  I think I won't give out many details other than that until I'm finished with my research, other than funny day to day happenings.

In order to get to each village, from the Conservation Center where I'm staying, my translator who also moonlights as a motorcycle taxi, is also my driver.  We ride a motorcycle over some of the most awful roads I've seen, and they get much worse in the rain.  We've already used 3 different motorcycles (they aren't broken but we tried them until the third was the best) and we have to fix the current one semi-frequently, particularly the chain gets loose.  The first village interviews are done, and I have 5 villages to do.  The first one was the furthest away so thankfully we won't spend so much time on the motorcycle anymore.  I still get kinda muddy though.

The forest here is beautiful, and I even enjoy the farms, where they grow all the famous tropical foods and spices everyone loves, plus some more we don't get in the North, like jackfruit.  They grow bananas, mangoes, coconuts, avocadoes, yams, papaya, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and other staple crops like maize, beans and cassava.  It's really cool to see all these in plant and tree form.  Cardamom is a tall plant, while cinnamon and cloves are trees, and black pepper is a vine.  I love banana trees the best--they're so tall and the leaves so big and shiny green.  


Cardamom plants in front, banana trees on the side and in back.

For wildlife, my translator is also a guide for the Amani Nature Reserve, and he knows many plants, birds and other animals around.  I've seen hornbills, who look like toucans I guess, at least the cartoon Toucan Sam of Fruitloops, and they whoosh overhead with the weight of a hawk.  Then there's the small blue monkeys who travel in small groups, and slightly larger colbus or black-and-white monkeys.  I have many far-away pictures of blue monkeys, and one of this sweet horned chameleon (below monkeys) that a villager showed me.  

I think this might be the leader of the group.

Maybe the leader, not sure, or the group's yoga instructor.

Thanks, random villager, for the great find!

The hardest part about being here is being alone a lot, especially after being part of a big group for two months.  Takes some getting used to.  I try to joke around with my translator, with some success, but the language barrier makes it difficult.  And cultural.  Today we were waiting for someone to guide us to the wildlife corridor, and my translator sounded frustrated that he didn't show.  I said, well, maybe he had an emergency, like his clove trees were on fire.  For some reason I made myself laugh pretty hard at this, because it sounded so crazy, like "sorry man, I gotta go--my clove trees are on fire!"  And my translator laughed but I think it was maybe not as unlikely a scenario as I had originally thought, as later on we saw some banana trees that had clearly been on fire that day or the day before.  I hope that if I do say something stupid or offensive he will tell me, but people here are so nice I'm not sure.


  1. That is one odd looking lizard. It even looks a trifle scary.

    Clove tree fires? The aroma must be pretty sweet.

  2. Nice chameleon photo.

    The motorcycle rides sound pretty primative.

    I can't imagine anyone being offended by your laughter.