The management of the named Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark this year marked the World Heritage Day, (April 18) with a ceremony at the Olduvai Gorge to publicise and boost the Ngorongoro tourist circuit for the benefit of the Maasai, Hazabe and Barbaig people who have been its custodians for millenia.
The ceremony was graced and officiated by Charlie Stuart, the European Union deputy chief of mission in Tanzania.
The EU is funding social programmes in the geo-park to the tune of Tsh4.3 billion ($2 million) and the Chinese government is giving Tsh10 billion ($5 million) towards the same.
Unesco granted Ngorongoro a geopark status last November. It describes a geopark as a single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
The Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and is 12,000sq km of rocky hills, underground caves, lake basins, and the active Oldonyo Lengai volcano. Also within the conservation area is the world famous Olduvai Gorge, all under the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.
Tourists visiting northern Tanzania can now tour the Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark and drive through the Ngorongoro Crater, lakes Natron and Eyasi, visit the Maasai Cultural Bomas or homesteads on their way to the Serengeti National Park or the Lake Manyara National Park.
There are 119 Unesco Global geoparks in 33 countries around the world, with Morocco being the only other country in Africa with one.
Cultural tourism is specifically being promoted in Ngorongoro through special Maasai homesteads (bomas) inside the wildlife conservation area.
The Maasai people, one of the best nature and wildlife conservationists, are now benefitting directly from this form of tourism through charges on tourists visiting the cultural bomas.
These cultural bomas can be found at Seneto, Irkeepus, Loongooku, and Kimba, where tourists get a feel of a typical Maasai lifestyle, traditional craft making and food preparation.
Tourists can also purchase ready made handicraft, learn and enjoy Maasai traditional dances and story telling sessions where local folklores are recounted of the Oldonyo Lengai where God resides.
Revenues collected from these cultural sites and community campsites are handled by a community Pastoral Council, and later disbursed to respective communities to fund community projects.
Over Tsh227 million ($100,000) is collected annually from