Arusha — CHINA will provide Tanzania's maiden Geopark with 10 million US dollars (over 22bn/-) financial support.
The Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark is earmarked to cover 12,000 square kilometres of rocky hills, lengthy underground caves, lake basins, hominid discovery sites and the active Oldonyo L'engai, Volcano.
The Geopark will be the second in Africa, after the one in Morocco and the first South of the Sahara. Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) Conservator Dr Freddy Manongi says of the Geopark, "While tourists from America and Europe prefer game driving into National Parks to view wildlife; the Chinese and other Asians are different."
According to Dr Manongi, tourists from China, Korea, Japan and other Asian countries prefer seeing landscapes, mountains, caves, gorges and other geological features.
He believes that the country will use the Geopark to attract visitors from Asia, with China alone offering a huge market of 1.4 billion people for Tanzania's geology based tourism.
"We are striving to expand the country's tourism potentials by introducing attractions based on land formations, geology, history and geographical features, all packaged in singly as Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark," Olduvai Gorge Deputy Conservator Orgoo Mauyai explains. Olduvai is part of the proposed Geopark.
The main economic activities in the envisaged Ngorongoro- Lengai Geopark is pastoralism especially along Maasai and Datoga, agriculture, tourism and small scale trading.
"The Geopark theme is how local residents earn a living from these geological features without interfering with their natural settings," stated Mr Nickson Nyange, one of the Public Relations Officers at NCAA.
Ngorongoro Lengai is tipped to become a popular tourist destination for tourists visiting the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron and Eyasi as well as tourists to other national parks like Lake Manyara and Serengeti.
The first ever sub-Saharan Geopark project was initiated by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) under the European Union (EU) funding.
NCAA Cultural Heritage Department acting Manager Engineer Joshua Mwankunda says the EU has already floated 1.8 million Euros (over 4bn/-) as initial funding to the project.
Identification and establishment of geo-sites are a result of territorial analysis by the Promotion of Earth and Human Heritage of Ngorongoro by valorisation of the Oldupai and from reserve Geologique of Haute de France with support and collaboration from local residents.
The analysis produced a database of geo-sites mapped within the Ngorongoro-Lengai and Laetoli 'Geopark.' It also involved members from the district councils, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and the National Museum.
Antonym to National Parks, Geoparks are unified geographical areas that address the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way while promoting social and economic well-being of the people within the earmarked locations.