MARA regional leaders are planning to upgrade Tarime- Mugumu road from gravel to tarmac level in an effort to speed up tourism activities in western Serengeti.
The plan comes at a time when the number of tourists entering the country through the Tanzanian / Kenyan Sirari border and later using Mugumu route, on their way to Serengeti National Park (SENAPA), has increased sharply.
It is more of a strategic road that runs across the surroundings of North Mara Gold Mine and farming areas that produce various food and cash crops such as coffee, maize and bananas in Mara Region.
The leaders are now talking with the region's key development partners, requesting them to support construction of the 88 km road.
According to the Mara Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr John Tuppa, African Barrick Gold (North Mara) is one of the partners who have already been approached to finance the project.
Mr Tuppa made the remarks at the Mara Regional Road Board Meeting in Musoma on Monday. The meeting assessed the status of the road networks in the region.
The RC instructed Mara Regional Tanzania National Roads (TANROADS) office to fast-track the proposal. "Make it as fast as possible.
We are targeting strategic areas that will move our region's development forward," the regional chief instructed. Mara Regional TANROADS Manager Engineer Emmanuel Korosso assured the RC that the proposal would be ready in a few days' time. Engineer Korosso said, in a separate interview that around 102bn/- is required to upgrade the road covering 88 kilometres.
Mara regional leaders believe that construction of the road plus the much awaited international airport in Mugumu town, would help boost the region's economic development.
Serengeti officials say construction of the airport is set to commence this year at Uwanja wa Ndege ward on the outskirt of Mugumu town, about 40 km away from SENAPA.
"This year, the airport must be constructed. I'm saying this with confidence," Mr John Ng'oina, the Serengeti District Council chairman assured a full council meeting in Mugumu last week.
If the dream comes true, Serengeti will set a history of becoming the first district council in Tanzania to own an airport, according to Mr Ng'oina. Latest reports from Serengeti officials say a team of experts from the University of Dar es Salaam visited Uwanja wa Ndege ward and conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
They have submitted their final report to the National Environment Management Council (NEMC). Serengeti District and Mara regional leaders are waiting for feedback from NEMC. The airport will enable tourists coming from different parts of the world to have a direct landing in Mugumu.
From there they may travel by road to SENAPA to view a variety of beautiful wild animals, including the great wildebeest migration. Already, Mr Paul Tudor Jones, an American investor who has set up several luxurious lodges in western Serengeti has agreed to support construction of the airport, according to Serengeti leaders.
The US billionaire has of late invested heavily on tourism and conservation sectors, as well as injecting money every year to support local development after 'falling in love' with the Serengeti ecosystem.
His lodges have won global awards, after being named the best by Travel-Leisure Magazine of the United States for 2012, from a list of top 100 hotels in the world, the second time in a row.
The lodges included Sasakwa, Farufaru, Sabora Tented Camp and Singita Explore Mobile Camp. They attract highly paying clients from mainly overseas. They are operated by Singita Grumeti Reserves (SGR), an exclusive South African tourism company.
Last year alone (2013) the investor approved around 800m/- to support local development in about 22 rural villages of Serengeti and Bunda districts through Singita Grumeti Fund (SGF), a nonprofit making conservation and community development organization that receives funding from SGR.
The beneficiary villages are those located near a 350,000 acres wildlife-rich concession areas operated by the US investor in western Serengeti. According to the Serengeti District Council Chairman, upgrading Tarime- Mugumu road and construction of the envisaged Mugumu airport will bring more economic gains to area residents.
"Tourism in the western corridor is now open. Many tourists are passing through Tarime - Mugumu road. We must do everything possible to tap this opportunity", Mr Ng'oina said when contributing at the Mara Regional latest Road Board Meeting.
Tarime District Commissioner (DC) Mr John Henjewele also backed the two projects at the same meeting. "Many tourists are now entering the country through Tarime. Upgrading the road and construction of Mugumu airport will make tourism pay off", DC Henjewele said.
SOURCE; Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)