This is because of little or at times lack of cooperation between the village leaders, districts, natural resource committees and the law enforcers.
On December 26th last year in 2016, Msolokelo village natural resource committee in Mvomero District, Morogoro Region conducted a patrol in the village land forest reserve. This was one of their regular routines in the forest reserve.
During the patrol which took several hours, they came across a group of more than one hundred cattle that was feeding and trampling in the forest reserve.
Speaking at a meeting between Charcoal traders, Tanzania Forest Service Agency, Local government Authorities and other stakeholders in Morogoro Region recently, the board member of the Tanzania Community Forest conservation Networks (MJUMITA) Subira Juma said that during the patrol, the committee members arrested some pastoralists with their cattle after learning that they had illegally invaded the forest reserve.
“The committee decided to arrest the pastoralists because they had no legal document to enter the forest reserve and took them to the village leaders for legal action,” he said.
He narrates further that while on their way to the village office, they crossed the road and suddenly a speeding passenger bus popularly known as Chuma bus appeared and crushed the cattle, killing at least 9 cattle on the spot and injuring other two cattle.
After the incident, the pastoralists phoned the cattle owner to notify him about what had happened. The cattle owner phoned the police and immediately the traffic police arrived at the scene and arrested the committee members (Natural Resource Committee Members).
To the shock, the driver of the passenger bus who had caused the accident was left to walk free and the committee members were ferried to the police station where they were rocked up.
After getting the information, the village chairman decided to make follow up on the matter.
“To our shock, the village Chairman was informed and decided to make follow-up to rescue the committee members. But after arriving at the police station, he was also rocked up while the driver of the bus who had caused the accident was left to walk free,” he said.
“I was informed by other members of the committee and the villagers and rushed to the police station and after two days of follow ups, the committee members were bailed on conditions that they should be frequently reporting at the police station pending for the investigation,” he said.
To date, the committee members are still under investigation and their file has been taken to Dakawa police station and when investigation is completed, the members shall be taken to court, he added.
In another development, at least 5,000 cattle have invaded water sources in the mountainous village land forest reserves of Ukwiva, Dodoma-Isanga, Nyari, Madudumizi, Ulaya and Madizini in Kilosa District.
According to Kilosa ward Councilors, the invasion is threatening the disappearance of the main Rivers of Mdukwi and Miombo which supply water to thousands of villagers residing in different villages and wards of Ulaya, Zombo, Masanze and Kilangali.
Zombo Ward Councilor, Issa Libenanga said that apart from invading the important water sources, the cattle have been eating and flattening trees and vegetation cover including geminating plants and vegetation in areas where the villagers are implementing the project on transforming Tanzania’s Charcoal Sector (TTCS).
He said that some cattle have also invaded farmers’ crop destroying them, a situation he described as very dangerous because it has fueled many conflicts between the pastoralists and the farmers.
Citing an example, he said that last week on Feb 8th and 9th the cattle invaded several farmers’ crop at Nyari and Madudumizi villages completely destroying them.
The outspoken ward councilor accused the district government leaders, the police and the courts for not doing enough to protect both farmers and the catchment areas.
He said that in most cases, the district authorities tend to keep a blind eye on the invasion. He said if they take the pastoralists to court, they are usually given small penalty or left to walk free.
“We don’t understand this situation because the environment is being destroyed on daily basis. This week, in a period of two days only, crops of at least four farmers have been destroyed. At the moment, these farmers have no alternative source of food and income but relevant authorities are silent,” he questioned.
“The cattle can destroy more than one acres of farmers’ crop but when taken to court, the pastoralists would be asked to pay 50,000/- only and at times. Is this not encouraging them to continue destroying the crops and fueling conflicts?” he asked the vividly irked ward councilor.
He called on the government and law enforcers to enforce the law without bias or favouring any group or section of the community because when the environment are destroyed will affect all people.
Our reporter sought views of the regional and the district leaders but Morogoro Regional Commissioner, and Kilosa district Commissioner could not pick up their phone. Kilosa District Executive Director’s mobile phone was switched off and therefore, could not be reached for comments.
Earlier on, presenting a paper on transforming Tanzania’s Charcoal Sector (TTCS), the project manager Charles Leonard said that Tanzania is losing a total of 372,816 hectares of forest annually. According to him, the area is twice bigger than the city of Dar es Salaam.
“Tanzania has a total of 48.1 million hectares out of which, nearly 90 percent are Miombo woodlands and almost half of the Miombo woodlands are found in the village land where frequent degradation occurs,” he said.
Therefore, improving forest conservation and management in the village land forest reserves is very important to combat the high speed of degradation.
Commenting on Charcoal consumption, he said that Tanzanians are using more than 2.3 millions tonnes of charcoal and half of them are consumed in Dar es Salaam alone.
He called on the government to put in place responsive policies and mechanisms that would govern the whole forest sector including charcoal.
The meeting between charcoal traders, Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS) Local Government Authority, and other stakeholders aimed at sharing key findings from the study on charcoal market conditions.
It also aimed at advocating for changes in policy to support charcoal and other forest products legally produced in village forest management plans.
During the meeting, the Chairperson of Morogoro District Council Kibena Kingo urged charcoal producers and traders to adhere to regulations and laws governing forest resource when doing their business.
“You must understand that things are changing. Regulations and laws have also changed or are being regularly enforced to manage well our forest resource and the environment. Therefore, I urge you to walk with your permits and all the documents when doing your business to avoid long arm of the law,” she said.
Prof Romanus Ishengoma of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Tourism, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro Region said that deforestation is largely driven by two major factors: Land clearing for agriculture, and wood extraction for energy. In many cases these factors work in tandem, wood extraction is followed by use of the land for agriculture.
He said that other drivers of deforestation and forest degradation includes illegal and unsustainable harvesting of forest products, forest fires, agricultural expansion, overgrazing and nomadic pastoral practices, infrastructure development, settlement and resettlement, and introduction of alien and invasive species.
These causes of deforestation and forest degradation (D&D) are indirectly driven by market and policy failures, population growth including rapid urbanisation and rural settlement expansion, poverty and the poor state of the economy.
Citing an example, he said that recent results from NAFORMA indicate that both the protection and production forests are degraded with average standing wood volume of 50 m3 per ha. The total average standing volume per ha had declined from 180m3/ha in 1961 to 50m3/ha in 2012 and the MAI declined to around 2m3/ha.
To meet the wood demand deficit, harvesting is taking place in villages and in protected forests that are legally not allowed for wood harvesting. Although, the volume of charcoal produced in Tanzania is very its contribution to government revenues is little because of low compliances.
The unsustainably produced charcoal in the market competes unfairly with charcoal produced sustainably. Regarding charcoal produced sustainably, royalties, fees and all the required taxes are paid while in most cases, charcoal produced unsustainably may evade the taxes.
He said that what used to be forests has been degraded to bush lands and grasslands. In 2012, Tanzania mainland had a population of 43,625,354 people (an increase of more than 6 times when compared to 1961) creating a wood deficit (in that year) of 7.8 million m3 from the production forests.