Stephanie Hanes and Stephen Sapienza, for the Pulitzer Center
Yet another complication for the Carr Foundation crew:
Officially, the rural communities that live around the park don't really exist. They've been around for generations, and have traditional rules about land use, but they've never registered with the government, and have never mapped out their land in any modern or formal way.
This is an issue for the park. If the Carr Foundation wants to give communities a percentage of the park's revenues, or help protect them when the park finally turns into a money-maker and other opportunists start coming in, it needs to sign certain agreements. But it can't if there isn't – officially, at least – a community there, with a bank account, land rights, etc.
So the park is working with a bunch of NGOs to get these villagers land rights. (Big issue across rural Africa, actually.) Today we tagged along with Baldeu Chande, the guy who is in charge of the park's community programs, to a meeting in a place called Nhanguo.
The purpose of the meeting was to figure out the community's traditional boundaries, and how these boundaries had shifted over time. A dozen or so village elders sat in a circle, on little benches and logs, and each took turns using a stick to draw maps in the dirt. They argued, and kept redrawing the map until they got it to a point where everyone agreed. The NGO workers and government people made sketches – the next step is to use a GPS to draw a more formal map…