By Jo Anderson
The communities signed a 30 year contract with Carbon Tanzania committing to prevent the illegal destruction of their Village Land Forest Reserves.
The agreement gives the villages, and the Kigoma Rural District authorities, the opportunity to earn revenues from the sale of carbon credits. These credits are generated by the successful, verifiable conservation of wildlife-rich forests that fall under their jurisdiction.
The contract signing marks the end of over two years detailed planning work between Carbon Tanzania and its partner in the landscape, Tuungane*, and the Tanganyika District Council and eight village communities to design and develop strategies that will lead to better and sustainable management of the magnificent forests in the area.
Carbon Tanzania Director Marc Baker signed in the presence of representatives from the villages, officials from Tanganyika District and Mwese Ward, as well as the Tuungane Programme Directors. The event was hosted at the Ward offices in Mwese Village, and was hosted by Theodora Kisesa, the Chairperson of Kigoma Rural District Council.
With the planning phase complete, the signing signals the formalisation of the work by the various project partners that is to be known as The Ntakata Mountains REDD project. This level of engagement from all levels of authority and community members will, we believe, lay the foundation for long-lasting and successful natural resource management.
Why are these forested areas so important? Carbon Tanzania seeks to enhance conservation around East Africa by identifying natural forests that provide benefits for local communities as well as being valuable for wildlife populations and biodiversity.
The expansive tracts of tropical miombo forests in the west of Tanzania are in some ways the last frontier for conservation in the country. They form the water catchment for the Katume River that is the lifeline of Katavi Plains National Park, and also supplies water to the agricultural communities in the area.
The forests are also home to Tanzania’s largest population of endangered, free-living chimpanzees, and they form a significant corridor that connects to Mahale Mountains National Park, itself a home to tourist-attracting chimpanzee groups.
The communities have now committed to conserve these special forest areas by designating them as Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs), a process in which Carbon Tanzania and its partners were involved.
This gives the villages user-rights over the natural resources and means that they benefit directly from them, supporting their livelihoods through regulated wood and forest product collection or earning money from the managed asset.
The right to do this comes with the responsibility to protect them from unplanned and illegal destruction, a responsibility that the village and district authorities discharge by referring to and following the land-use plans developed and designated by the communities themselves. In this way the communities own both the resource, and the process to protect it.
While deforestation in many parts of the tropics is driven by the exploitation of forests for commodities such as timber, palm oil, soya or meat, the forests in the Ntakata Project are threatened by the illegal movement of people from neighbouring regions in search of farmland and grazing. The loss of these legally designated forest areas poses a serious threat to community stability and livelihoods.
As well as the widespread slash and burn agriculture undertaken by a steady influx of migrants from all parts of Tanzania, other threats include mining and the development of new infrastructure such as trunk roads. The ability of villages and districts to protect their forests depends on the enforcement of the community-led and legally binding land-use plans.
And to do this revenue is needed, which is where Carbon Tanzania comes in. Thanks to our forward-looking marketing strategy, one investor from Germany has already committed to purchasing credits from the project.
Josera, a human, pet and farm animal food production company will buy credits for five years after the project has been certified. This will initially provide basic revenues for the participating villages, funding their conservation activities and paying for basic social services such as education and health.
As time goes on and revenues rise, these communities will increasingly have the ability to improve their rural economies through improved agriculture schemes, access to market initiatives and micro-finance arrangements, thereby genuinely realising value from their natural resources.
Long term vision
Thanks to this innovative and long-term sustainable approach to natural resource management, Tanganyika District, the 8 villages and Carbon Tanzania can look forward to making a lasting difference to the conservation of forests in the area and to mitigating global climate change, while also ensuring that the communities improve their livelihoods and rural economic development.