Ramadhan, Nurdin, Asha and Tatu, say when the Sun emerges from the Eastern horizon, the main idea that comes in their head is to make new plans on how to revive the lost valuable forests, marine species and other life-giving support systems.
They started conservation work by volunteering, they received training and acquired knowledge and skills, including understanding that forestry and marine ecosystems do not only provide direct sources of livelihood particularly to the rural population but also makes significant contribution to Lindi region and the nation’s socio-economic development.
In recent years, local and International organizations have created a new generation of spirited and committed youth environmental conservationists through their inspiring work in the southern regions of Tanzania, one of such organizations is WWF.
Their work has encouraged many youth to pull their efforts together to protect habitats and conserve threatened species. Besides protecting wildlife and rare species, the youth have vowed to ensure conservation of the forest marine and coastal ecosystems are also boosted.
Their conservation initiatives supported by local, district and government leaders have garnered attention and praise, not only from the local communities but also at district, regional and national level.
In Nanjirinji village, Kilwa district, every youth is a security guard of the forest resource following numerous benefits accrued from conservation of the village land forest reserve (VLFR) as a result of community based forest management (CBFM).
One of the pioneers of this conservation who is also a member of the Nanjirinji village natural resource committee (VNRC) is Ramadhan Chilinde.
In an interview conducted recently, he said his participation in the CBFM is a result of self commitment and determination to rescue the environment which gives life from disappearing. He said the conservation work in the village has born multiple fruits.
Mpingo Conservation Development Initiative (MCDI) and Kilwa district council under the support of WWF managed to set aside the village land forest reserve (VLFR) some years back. Then a committee was formed and preparation of management and harvesting plans started.
When all plans had been put in place, they invited traders who started coming to their village to harvest forest products according to the plan.
The harvesting plans had consent and permits of the district council. The revenues accrued from the forest products were used for community development activities such as improving community social services.
Forexample, from 100 percent, five percent was given as dividend to the district council, another five percent for MCDI, 50 percent for development and improvement of social services such as water, school and health centre.
The remaining 40 percent is used for conservation and management of the VLFR such as to cover patrol costs and other equipments like transport facilities.
“We have constructed three school classrooms, built office for teachers, we have also built the Village government office, constructed seventeen room-guest house, dug bore hole for the residents, bought pupils uniform, we also support 50,000 for each pregnant mother to buy labour equipments, we also provide each pupil who passes the examination to join secondary school 100,000/- to cover the school requirements. All these are benefits of forest conservation drive,” he said.
Unlike other villages where the villagers cut down trees randomly and don’t see the importance of conservation, in Nanjirinji, the villagers are aware of the benefits and have all developed a culture of environmental conservation.
“Every villager is a security guard, if he or she gives information about illegal activity in the village land forest reserve, such good person will be awarded 20 percent of the value of the impounded forest products,” he said
He calls on other youth in the country to emulate this good example saying it is high time the youth and the general public realized huge benefit accrued from the CBFM and make life better.
Besides forest resource, People need to know that they also need to conserve something bigger and that is marine species. In some places, the marine ecosystem is unsustainably used. In Somanga village in Kilwa district, things have changed.
Thanks to youth efforts to sensitize and create awareness in the community. One of the youth is Nurdin Mbuzi who is currently involved in functions and activities of Beach Management Units (BMUs).
The BMU’s regulates fisheries and poverty reduction among the fishers’ communities in Somanga. WWF has empowered the local communities involved in the BMU to sustainably manage Octopus fisheries and help them increase household income and their economy.
The residents have started to see the benefits. WWF has been supporting the roll-out of co-management practices in the Kilwa fishery, working with fishers and local community co-management structures such as the Beach Management Unit (BMUs) to develop management plans for the octopus fishery. Octopus fishing is the mainstay of small-scale fisheries in Somanga village
“We usually convene the village meeting and other fishermen to discuss on how best we can manage BMU. We agree on plans to implement temporary closures for three month so that the stock of octopus can recover.
Temporary octopus fishery closures have played an increasingly important role in the management of the fishery across Somanga village and surrounding communities.
Communities have increased production of the Octopus than before. This has also caused huge increase and wellbeing of the respective communities.
This knowledge and skills have spread to other areas as well. “Group of BMU is benefiting a lot, for every kilo, the group earns five shillings.
Forexample, we harvested more than three tons recently and received more than 1.5m/ which is used by the community to improved social services such as contributing to the construction of the village health centres, school classrooms, and some of the money was used to support and rescue fisher men who happened to get accidents.
Between 200 and 500 women have benefited from the fishery value chain, there are some who ferry the fish products to the market and others are self employed.
Nowadays Somanga has auction market which also provides revenues for the government and the district council.
“We commended WWF through SIDA Leading the change, we received more than 22.9m/ to improve fishery infrastructures including constructing a good market.
The district council also under the leadership of the district commissioner and the Executive Director gave financial support of 4m/- to buy the area. Through the project, we have repaired the boat at 3m/- which we now use for conducting patrols.
Other benefits include fostering human rights as the villagers convene regular meetings to speak out on gender based violence and human rights.
The meetings brings people from all walks of life. They are men and women, people with disabilities, and business community to talk openly on basic human rights. So you can see the project has spillover effect to many people.
One of the benefits is acquisition of knowledge and skills, education and women are aware of their rights and they know where to report GBV, he added.
However, he said more support still needed to adequately cover all costs such as expansion of patrols and market. In Mchakama village, Kilwa district comes another youth volunteer in forest conservation. This is a member of the village Natural Resource Committee Asha Ligambe.
Asha has been in the fore front to create awareness and support the villagers’ effort of conserving the entire village land forest reserve since 2011. Earlier on, the village had set aside 10 percent of the village land forest reserve to plant trees.
The tree species being planted are Mnungunungu, Mkongo, and Mkangazi. Of all the tree species, Mnungunungu also known as Erythrina is considered rare, it is very valuable, important and one of the oldest source of medicine.
Why Mchakama village prefer this Erythrina tree? According to Asha, its barks are widely used to cure fever in children; women use it during postpartum period, as well as sexual and reproductive health to mention a few.
According to Asha, the Erythrina restoration has improved economic welfare of individuals in the village as they constantly engage in the entire restoration process from seeds collection, to planting, to forest patrol.
Asha explained that from conservation efforts of the VLFR, the village has constructed school pupils’ toilets at 2.5m/- which has helped stop truant pupils and raise the school performance. The new toilet has seven holes, three for boys and four for girls.
The money accrued from the forest have also bought Solar power for Mchakama village dispensary and the house for the Clinical Officer.
Unlike in the past, availability of power for 24 hours has helped the villagers to access medical and health service at the health facility day and night. In the past they were using torches but with the new technology of using Solar power, they can administer medical services throughout the day and night. He commended WWF, MCDI and the District Council.
Asha said between 2016 and 2018 the village earned millions of shillings from timber harvest. About 50 percent village dividend, 5 percent went to the Kilwa district council, MCDI received 5 percent as a voluntary contribution by the community for its support, and the remaining went to the Village Natural Resource Committee for operational expenditure.
“The 50 percent from the forest proceeds is allocated for the development activities of the village. For example, beside building new toilet for the pupils, the village has constructed Clinical Officers house worth 44m/- and renovated the village government office for 1m/-, ” she said.
Some of the money has been used to start goat project and to build capacity of the Natural Resource Committee like buying a motorcycle for patrol, buying uniforms and other operational costs,” she added.
Tatu Ally is another pioneer, she is the Village Game Scout (VGS) at Sasawala village, magazine ward, Namtumbo district.
She works with Kisengule wildlife conservation community. According to Tatu, the team of committed youth continues leading other youth and their local communities to arrest forest crimes. She like tourism attractions along Ruvuma wildlife corridor and she says it is imperative that the natural resources should be protected by all cost because they also provide forex for the nation.
Citing an example she said in Ruvuma River there are many tourist attractions such as beautiful birds at Maiwa dam. Rare animals are also spotted at changalanga mountain which habours pangolin.
The giant Ruvuma River estuary is a home to Crocodiles and Hippos that make the area another attractive place to visit. The river ecosystem is potential, a site for eco-tourism.
All the four youth call on Tanzanians, local and international organizations to support youth initiatives especially in the environmental conservation saying their new ideas can help to effectively and efficiently conserve and sustain the natural resource for better livelihoods and economic gains.