Forest conservation earns villagers TSh 22m annually

Rufiji. Campaigns to have villages engage more in forest conservation especially in areas that are surrounded by natural forests may bear fruit, if a recent example in one village in Rufiji District is emulated.

Over the years, forest conservation campaigns have been initiated to ensure the impact of climate change that has threatened to leave the country a desert are maintained.

Mama Misitu Campaign is one of them. Working in a number of districts of Masasi, Kilwa, Kisarawe, Kibaha, Muheza and Rufiji, it has succeeded in raising public awareness so that people learn how to preserve forests in their areas. But more importantly, through different programmes, Mama Misitu is committed to seeing that villagers benefit from their efforts, an endeavour that one village is enjoying.

Talks of forest conservation have been almost everywhere, but that is a cause successful only if it involves people who live close to the natural resource in question. This is especially so because of the interdependence that people surrounding the forests face.

Because of abject poverty in may areas, irrespective of the hazards that may come, forests are sources of everything. To some, that is where energy for domestic use comes from, while to others, forests are places where they will reap legally or illegally and sell forest products to earn a living.

At Nyamwage Village at the junction of Utete, the headquarters of Rufiji District and the road to southern regions of Mtwara and Lindi, villagers now enjoy what they see as rewards for their participation in forest conservation and management.

Nyamwage Village, which is in Mbwara Ward, has 3,600 residents residing in 1,234 households, good management of forest has made it look much better than many villages in Tanzania. It has a full furnished modern village office whose construction cost Sh33 million. Villagers have constructed an additional classroom at the village school costing about Sh9 million and desks have been made to help alleviate the lack of the furniture at the school.

“We are at final stages of completing the construction of a maternity ward at the village dispensary…we estimate that it will cost up to Sh36 million when completed,” said village chairman Ibrahim.

When asked where all this money was coming from, Mr Mboweto was happy to explain to members of the Journalist Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) that the money was a result of forest revenue.

“We collect an average of Sh20million to Sh22 million revenue annually from the forest. We allow people to harvest forest products in an open area,” he told the journalists who were in the village as part of the Mama Misitu campaign.

The village, however, has two forest reserves of which no one is allowed to conduct any activity therein. “The revenue I am talking about comes from the open area…we don’t allow people to enter the forest reserves,” he explained.

The forest reserves are Nyamkongo (1,294 acres) and Ilyia (1,136 acres), which are both protected by the village through the environment and natural resources committee, which has 12 members.

According to the village chairman, the forests are also ready for harvest and they are in the process of asking the government for permission to start selling the forest products.

Alongside the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), which is a partner in the implementation of the Mama Misitu campaigns, the village, according to the chairman, also receives assistance from other stakeholders in the environmental protection drive, WWF.

Being aware of the dangers that may come out of the continued deforestation in the open areas, the villagers have planned for a forestation programme to keep the areas green.

“We have not yet started planting trees in the areas where customers cut them…we are in that process, however. Soon we will start planting…we have a budget for that,” said Mr Athuman Ngomi, the village executive officer.

The success the village enjoys, however, has come at a price of others with the village having to endure continued patrols to contain illegal logging and forest harvesting.

The village officials said intruders were using sophisticated weapons and means of transport like motorcycles while the village environmental and natural resources committee had bicycles and pangas.

Moreover, pastoralists mostly them Wasukuma and Waman’gati are said to have entered the forests with their cattle, thus endangering the ecosystem.

“We are worried,” said Mr Mboweto, “The problem is that these people use a lot of tricks to sneak into the forest, and some of them have weapons while our village environmental and natural resources committee operates without the necessary equipment to help them deal with any danger in the forest reserves.

If we want to mitigate environmental degradation and global warming impacts, we have to engage in tree planting and in the preservation of forests.

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