Hifadhi Mapafu ya Dar es Salaam (HIMADA), which means conserve the lungs of Dar es Salaam is one of the nine Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) pilot projects implemented in Tanzania.
Himada project is currently undertaken in the Pugu and Kazimzumbwi Forest Reserves (PKFRs). The two reserves are found in Dar es Salaam’s Ilala district and Kisarawe district in Coast Region.
The four-year project in the reserves, which serve as catchments for Kizinga River and one of the recharge areas of groundwater in parts of Dar es Salaam, is aimed at reducing carbon emissions by curbing deforestation, controlling forest degradation as well as improving carbon stocks in the PKFRs and surrounding areas.
The government is one of the key stakeholders in the project, others include Lawyers Environment Action Team (LEAT), Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST), University of Dar es Salaam Business School (UDBS), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and Forest and Bee Division (FBD). Communities living adjacent to the forests also have a big share in the implementation of the project, which has come as a rescue mechanism in the two forest reserves, which were among the highly deforested forests in Tanzania.
Deforestation in the reserves was mainly caused by anthropogenic factors such as unsustainable harvesting of forest products, agriculture expansion and wild fires as well as quarry mining activities. All these activities were unfriendly to the reserves, which are highly depended by thousands of people living adjacent to it and those living in Dar es Salaam and Kisarawe.
Environmentalists have been claiming that the reserves have a wide-range of resources including different animals and plants. These forests reserves are a source of Kizinga River, which are the one of river, which preserves water downwards in Dar es Salaam region
In 1960’s, the forests of about 7,272 hectares, was an important habitat to a wide-range of wild animal species including leopards, lions, hippos, monkeys, jackals, bush pigs, mongoose and hyenas.
The situation drastically changed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Among the reasons for rampant deforestation in the two forest reserves include weak law enforcement and poor governance, and lack of environmental education for the surrounding communities.
Deforestation in the two forests, poses a serious threat to communities living near the forests and those in the city of Dar es Salaam, taking into account that the reserves act as the ‘lungs’ of carbon emission and providing clean air to the residents of Dar es Salaam and Kisarawe.
The four-year project is aimed at ensuring that Pugu and Kazimzumbwi are well managed and protected in order to improve the communities which are adjacent to the forests. The reserves are very important in helping people living adjacent to the forest against climate change currently affecting the world and Tanzania.
“Before embarking on the implementation of the project, the government carried-out a special campaign to evict all people who had established homes in the forest…and we managed to evict them,” says Mathew Mwanuo, who is the forest manager.
He says the exercise to evict those in the forest carried was out in January, last year.
“Thank God the forest reserves have started to re-generate and very soon they will return to their original state,” he says.
He recounts that the forests have now started to regenerate, giving new hope to people living near the forests and those in Dar es Salaam.
Mwanuo prides in the fact that the large part of the forest that was almost bare before the eviction has started regenerating at a very high speed. This follows efforts by the government to demolish all the houses and evict all the people in the forest, most of whom were taken to court.
Abdallah Jongo, a Kisarawe resident who was born in the 1950s recounts that before the eviction exercise, people in the area had started experiencing a number of environmental challenges including water shortage.
He says soon after the project kicked-off in April 2011, things started to change in the two reserves whereby communities living along the reserves have started benefiting from the new forest conservation drive.
“Things have started to change. As of now rivers and streams have started flowing normally,” he says.
Kazimzumbwi is the main source of Mzinga and Kizinga rivers, which offer a wide-range of opportunities for people living along the rivers as well as those in Dar es Salaam.
He notes that even wells in villages surrounding Kazimzumbwi forest dried-off as the forest was highly affected by human activities including rampant tree felling for charcoal and timber.
Pugu and Kazimzumbwi are among forests which are not supposed to be harvested because of their ecological and environmental significance.
Project coordinator of the Environment Media Network (EMnet) Samuel Ntapanta said: “After looking in detail, we thought that having interactive sessions with villagers and village leaders will be the best approach that would make REDD and its related concepts more understood by the communities.”
EMNet prepares motivational campaigns which together with short seminars and workshops provide a better understanding to the people. This enables them to participate fully in the conservation and management of Pugu and Kazimzumbwi forest reserves.
A researcher from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Anthony Sangeda said the situation was worse before government’s intervention.
“But, this is just a year since the forest was left free of human interference and the forest cover is growing very fast,” he says, adding: “In three years to come Kazimzumbwi forest will be fully re-generated and perform its ecological function.”
He says Kazimzumbwi forest is one of the 10 forests which are pilot of the REDD, which is based on a philosophy of rewarding forest adjacent communities, projects and national governments that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from forests.
REDD has the potential to cut large amounts in emissions at a low cost within a short period of time and at the same time, contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development.
He says Dar es Salaam emits a lot of gases in the atmosphere and if Pugu and Kazimzumbwi forests will be well managed it will be used to trap those gases and make the city a safe place to live.