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Chainsaws massacre Tanzania`s green cover

28th September 2012
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  Tanzania, which once prided in being among the greenest countries on the continent faces major threats of looming desertification brought about by major acts of deforestation. Apparently, despite its reported massive gas reserves, Tanzania still relies heavily on charcoal as a major source of fuel for the majority of the country’s nearly 45 million residents…
Tanzania loses 400,000 hectares of forests annually from tree felling. (File photo)

Since it takes wood to produce charcoal, Tanzania suffers an annual loss of 400,000 hectares of forests with the main culprit behind this depletion of its major natural resources being the domestic fuel demand.

All urban centres’ residents use charcoal as the main domestic source of fuel while their rural counterparts still relie on firewood but both of these have to do with axes and chainsaw chopping down natural forests.

It is estimated that Tanzania’s urban centers consume over one million tons of charcoal every year with nearly 500,000 tons being burned annually, and half of it consumed in the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

High costs of alternative and much cleaner fuel sources such as gas and electricity continue to drive the reliance on wood and charcoal for the 80 percent of the population.

State organs and Non-Governmental Organizations have tried various strategies to address the problem, but little has been achieved in curbing deforestation. This has been partly contributed by poor technology used in burning charcoal. Other factors include limited alternative sources of energy, as well as weak law enforcement mechanisms.

These challenges have been also thwarting the local and global efforts in reducing carbon emission into the atmosphere as forest cover has been going down on daily basis because of human induced activities. The Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) in that case, get a stumbling block in achieving its desired mission.

Recently, the government established the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) to help manage the nation’s dwindling forest resources, which have come under tremendous pressure due to high demand of forest products at local and global level. At local level trees are cut for charcoal and at global for timber.

Juma Mgoo is Chief Executive Officer of TFS, who admits that charcoal remains a challenge in conserving and managing forest resources in the country. REDD+ in that case, he says is facing a challenge that needs to be addressed using a pragmatic approach.

The government’s forest watchdog, which is commissioned to manage and sustainably conserve the country’s forest resources, is currently working on scaling up the charcoal making technology.

“There are several measures which we’re going to embark into, but to start with we’re going to promote the use of improved charcoal making technology, because we’ve discovered that the current ways used in making charcoal consumes a lot of logs, compared to the modern one,” Mgoo says.

According to him, traditional ways of making charcoal contribute to clearing large parts of forest covers and it has proved to be ineffective as charcoal produced isn’t related to the number of logs used to make the same charcoal.

“We believe this will help to reduce the amount of trees which are cut down by charcoal producers on a daily basis. This new technology will be disseminated to all charcoal producers across the country,” he says.

The focus on the said technology is to help charcoal makers reduce deforestation and by constructing charcoal kilns that will be suitable for charcoal producers in the country.

“We very positive with the initiatives taken by REDD+ processes and we think that this will have a very positive impact in the end. This technology therefore will be helpful in promoting sustainable charcoal production to scale-down tree felling,” he stresses.

In making this possible, TFS will collaborate with the Tanzania Forest Research Institute (TAFORI)—an organization that developed the technology popularly known as‘casamance’ kilns.” 
The official calls foresters across the country to closely work with charcoal producers, so they can learn and adopt the use of the technology.

Traditional charcoal making technology has proved to be one of the reasons that fuel deforestation in the country, as its effectiveness is only 10 percent of the charcoal produced, but for the new technology its effectiveness is 30 percent. This means that more sacks of charcoal will be produced compared to the traditional one.

The agency will also engage other key partners to invest and educate villagers on the importance of bio energy for sustainable charcoal production.

Mgoo who is a forester by profession says in the project, charcoal producers will be trained on construction and utilization of efficient charcoal kilns for effective charcoal production.

“Apart from promoting bio energy in cooking and heating, this new approach is meant to foster the development of small enterprises.”

He says charcoal production by using bio energy technology would also give opportunities for more employment opportunities across the country.

To start with, charcoal producers in all districts boardering the metropolitan city of Dar es Salaam including Bagamoyo, Kibaha, Kisarawe, Mkuranga and Rufiji will be the first group to benefit from the new charcoal making technology.

TFS has allocated 100m/- to implement the pilot project, which is later is expected to be expanded on to other upcountry regions of the country.

Apart, from adopting kiln technology, TFS is also working on scaling-up afforestation campaigns that will require people in their localities to plant more trees as one of the climate change mitigation measures, though at the end of the day, people will end up harvesting those trees and sell them in the form of timber.

“To us, all these are sustainable measures that will help to address deforestation, one of the important key drivers of climate change.

In this endeavor, TFS will work hand-in-hand with Tanzania Tree Seed Agency (TTSA). So, far the two bodies have developed a training manual for tree growers in the country.

On the need to promote beekeeping, Mgoo says: “This is an important area in TFS, and to me this is an important package in scaling-up REDD+, as it gives people alternative sources of income, hence; at the end of the day, it will reduce pressure on forest resources.”

“Beekeeping has proved to be an effective way of addressing poverty as well as addressing those environmental and socio-economic challenges. And people have realized that the sector has an economical value and is an important tool towards addressing poverty.”

He pledges that his agency will ensure beekeeping is well developed for people’s economic benefits and conserving forest resources, which are under serious pressures.

“We also came up with modern hives and protective gear during honey harvesting. We believe these kinds of technologies, when clearly understood will trickle down to small-scale beekeepers across Tanzania.”

Dr Julius Ningu, an environment director in the Vice-President’s Office, says Tanzania is working on REDD+ and things are moving smoothly as of now, the country is in the second phase, which includes pilot projects.

He says pilot has been done in nine areas across Tanzania and most of them have proved successful despite some challenges that need to be addressed.

Dr Ningu says, collective efforts are highly needed in addressing environmental challenges, which in turn act as a hindrance towards achieving REDD+.

He says REDD+ is welcome by communities living around forest reserves and the public at large and this will help to sustainably conserve the country’s forest resources.

On alternative sources of energy, he says: “This is a very good idea, because charcoal is still a key challenge towards addressing deforestation.”

Commenting on the possibility of subsidizing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and its related equipment to increase its usage by the public, Dr Ningu says: “We are also working on the matter so as to encourage people to use gas more rather than firewood and charcoal.”

The proposed subsidy would include attendant equipment such as gas cylinders, valves and hose pipes to make it easier for more Tanzanians to replace firewood and charcoal use with gas.

“We are still debating the modalities that will be suitable for the new package,” Ningu says.

The official stresses the need for the people to switch to alternative sources of energy, which are friendly to the environment. “People should get used to using gas, biogas and other sources of energy, as doing so they will be complementing the government’s efforts to conserve the environment,” he notes.

Evarist Nashanda, a senior official from the Tanzania Forest Services says the impact of climate change is real.

“We’re currently witnessing floods, drought and dramatic changes in temperature and precipitation impacting our people, natural ecosystems, agriculture and food supplies, forestry, water resources and energy.

“All these need everyone to play their role in addressing them and among ways to do so include reducing the use of forest resources for energy and other human activities.”

He also stresses the need for foresters to effectively sensitize people to take part in REDD+ process “so that together we can address the impact of climate change.”

He said there are many people out there who are not aware of a number of issues related to environmental conservation and REDD+ in particular. “These people need to be empowered with better understanding on key issues related to environmental conservation.”

Assistant Director of Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Gladness Mkamba, highlights several of the many complexities of implementing REDD+ in practice.

For example, Gladness says, where charcoal and fuel wood are key drivers of forest loss, REDD+ will only work if demand for these fuels goes down, or there are alternative sources that do not lead to displaced degradation.

“And even if people protect their own forests, they may be tempted to use other villages’ forests and so they need to commit to complying with regulations at the scale of the landscape,” the official says, linking the matter with the leakage concept.

She says more education for people across the country is needed. The idea is meant to ensure that all people take part in REDD+.

Getting information on in and out of REDD+ should be the first priority as people be able to tap potentials embedded in REDD.
Evarist Nashanda  says: “As far as I know, Tanzania is in the right track when it comes to implementing REDD+ process as we have managed to sail through the two important phases—preparation and now piloting.

He says the country is now eyeing for the next level of implementing REDD+.

“We are currently, working on establishing a carbon monitoring center. This center will be located at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). This center will be monitoring all carbon in the country.”

Nashanda who is also a member of the National REDD+ task force  says “From the nine piloted it is where we can be learning when we get into implementing the REDD+.”

Mgoo also says: “Since TFS get into the office early this year we have tightened the rules and regulations governing charcoal business revenue collections as we targeted to collect 54bn/- but we have surpassed the target to about 64bn/- until July this year. And this has been possible through standardizing the required weights of sacks and we have introduced a system of charging per kilo.”

“In a nutshell, I can say that we only stick to compliance and control the leakage. This is also a measure towards addressing deforestation as nobody is allowed to get into the forest without having a license and we have a special inspection team that ensures that all people who have licenses comply to what it has been agreed in the permit.”

Mgoo says the operation was unique as compared to others because 11 groups were established and they carried inspections in different areas in a bid to increase revenues where they inspected documents at the offices of district officers in charge of forestry.

“We are also intending to have forest guides and rangers that would require a minimum Form Four qualification and short courses to bridge the staffing gap as well as to have their own prosecutors in all seven zones of the country, at least three per zone, such that their illegal cases are well looked after.”

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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