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Kilosa villagers set to benefit from sustainable charcoal industry

11th December 2012
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Sustainable Charcoal Project advocacy officer Sisty Basil says opportunity exists for rural communities to make fortune from forest management at the same time protecting the environment.

During a recent visit to Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Correspondent PROSPER MAKENE interviewed Sustainable Charcoal Project advocacy officer SISTY BASIL on how villagers can benefit from forestry management in their quest to protect the environment. Excerpts:

QUESTION: Why do we need sustainable charcoal in the country?

ANSWER: Tanzania’s charcoal industry is one of the country’s largest industries. The World Bank estimated that the industry is worth US$ 650 million and employs several hundred thousand people in rural and urban areas. Over one million tons of charcoal is consumed each year in the country. Millions of urban consumers also depend upon charcoal for the energy required to prepare their meals. Over 90 percent of urban Tanzanians uses charcoal as either their primary or secondary source of domestic energy. Alternatives – such as electricity, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) or biomass briquettes – are either perceived as too expensive or hampered by undeveloped distribution and marketing networks.

The charcoal industry is characterized by weak governance. National and local governments lose an estimated US$ 100 million per year due to their failure to effectively regulate the industry. Little value accrues to the producers and to the villages on whose land, most charcoal is produced.

Currently, charcoal production in Tanzania is a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation. It has depleted forests and woodlands in forest reserves and on village land including biologically irreplaceable forest

Over the last decade, communities in Tanzania have established 814 village forest reserves covering 2.3 million hectares of forest and woodland. Sustainable charcoal production could offer a much-needed revenue stream for these reserves as well as providing rural employment. To achieve this new model of charcoal production and marketing is needed.

Q: What is sustainably produced charcoal?

A: Sustainably produced charcoal is charcoal produced from wood from woodlands under participatory forest management that applies ecologically sound harvesting principles. Charcoal is produced using efficient kiln technology and is transported and sold in accordance with national regulations.

Q: Why have you planned to establish a sustainable charcoal project?

A: Well, first of all the Sustainable Charcoal project is a partnership project that aims to establish a commercially viable value chain for legal, sustainably produced charcoal. The overall goal is to improve climate change adaptation and mitigation; to enhance environmental sustainability and to leverage returns on biomass resources; thereby delivering sustainable development to Tanzania and its people.

Q: What will the charcoal project do?

A: The project will work with communities and local government to establish sustainable and energy efficient charcoal production from woodland in village forest reserves. This will include training to village leaders and village natural resources committees; training to charcoal producers on improved charcoal production techniques; agreement on good practice in terms of harvesting, production techniques and governance; and integration of sustainable charcoal production into village forest reserve management plans. The project will also be linking the sustainable charcoal production with ongoing REDD (Reducing greenhouse gas Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries) initiatives. Also the project will train communities on the principles of conservation agriculture so as to increase their yield and decreasing dependency on the forest

Working with community networks, the project will support advocacy initiatives for improved governance of the charcoal sector. The project will also conduct an assessment of the environmental and social impacts of different charcoal value chains as well as life cycle assessment of the charcoal produced in Kilosa

However, the eco-conscious charcoal buyers in Dar es Salaam and other urban centres will be presented with the option to buy sustainably produced charcoal.

Q: Where is the sustainable charcoal project operating?

A: The project started operating in Kilosa District, Morogoro Region in June this year, where Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA) has been supporting a community-oriented REDD project since 2009.

The project has focused on woodland adjacent to the high biodiversity forests of the Rubeho and Ukaguru Mountains, part of the Eastern Arc Mountains biodiversity hotspot.

Q: How long would this project exists and who are project partners supporting the project?

A: The proposed project lifetime is six years, comprising a two-year inception and design phase and a four year period of expanded implementation.

The project is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). SDC is Switzerland’s international cooperation agency within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

The project will work with two Swiss Research institutions: The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of which is the University of Bern’s centre for sustainable development research with the aim of fostering sustainable development-oriented research and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) which is also is an interdisciplinary research and services institution for material sciences and technology development oriented to meet the requirements of industry and the needs of our society.

Meanwhile, Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organisation ( TaTEDO) will provide expertise on charcoal production techniques.

While, TFCG a national non-governmental organization whose mission is to conserve and restore the biodiversity of globally important forests in Tanzania, is providing advocacy, participatory forest management, environmental education, community development and research to ensure that there sustainable charcoal production in the country.

TFCG has succeeded in rolling out innovative and high-impact solutions to the challenges facing Tanzania’s forests and the people that depend on them.

Other partner is the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA) of which MJUMITA play its role as a national network of community groups involved in participatory forest management.

The network provides a forum for capacity building, advocacy and communication for these groups to make sure that there is sustainable charcoal production that will ensure forest and environment protection.

Q: Who are the project beneficiaries?

A: The project aims to benefit rural communities in Kilosa District, particularly in areas where participatory forest management (PFM) processes already forms part of the pilot REDD programme. Sustainably charcoal production and support for climate smart, small-scale agriculture will be introduced in eight villages in Kilosa District.

Q: Are there any challenges that face the project since started in June this year?

A: Currently at the national level there is no dedicated policy which deals with charcoal sector in the country, this makes it easy for people to harvest charcoal in an unsustainable manners hence leading to increasing deforestation in the country.

However, the project plans to mark charcoal bags with a specifically designed log to show that the product was prepared according to the required environmental standards; the system will control the packaging of the commodity

We want to reduce degradation of our forests by insuring that charcoal is produced sustainably from identified sources

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN