Briton Princess Royal awards Tanzanian conservation leader

02May 2016
The Guardian
Briton Princess Royal awards Tanzanian conservation leader

TANZANIA walked high shoulder in London, on Wednesday 27 April, last week when the Princess Royal presented a Whitley Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize worth £35,000 in project funding, to a Tanzanian scientist and conservationist Makala Jasper.

The Princess Royal and 2016 Whitley Awards 2016 recipient Makala Jasper (r) at The Royal Geographical Society, London,

The award giving colourful ceremony was held at the Royal Geographical Society, London in honour of his work in Tanzania to empower communities to conserve coastal forests and their wildlife through the sustainable management and sale of the high value timber, African Blackwood (also known as mpingo).

As a director of the Mpingo Conservation Development Initiative (MCDI), Makala has assisted 35 communities to protect over 3,000km2 of forest. The project is Africa’s only Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified programme for community-managed natural forests. Since the programme was established in 2006, prices per log have increased 100-fold providing vital income to people earning less than USD1 per day.

The project is situated between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Africa, and Kilwa Kisiwani.
By linking forest fragments, the project is enabling seasonal movements of large mammals such as elephants and lions. Through this initiative, Makala is giving communities an incentive to conserve this important habitat and the biodiversity within it.

Makala’s Whitley Award will allow him to bring over 5,000km2 of coastal forest under community protection, benefitting 2,500 Tanzanians.

Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “WFN focuses on conservation success stories and the progress that’s being made.

The financial benefit of winning an award, winners receive professional communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors, so they’re able to communicate what they’re doing to the public and to policy makers.”

The money will be used to expand MCDI's work to an entirely new community, and will represent the first step to connecting the existing community forests we support in south-eastern Tanzania with one of Africa's largest protected areas - the greater Selous Ecosystem!

Healthy forests are havens for biodiversity, provide a lifeline for billions of rural people worldwide, and play a vital role in mitigating global climate change.

It is for these reasons that an ambitious global target has been set by the United Nations sustainable Development Goals to promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests by 2020.

The value of MCDI's work to conserve forests was commended internationally when CEO, Makala Jasper, was presented with a 2016 Whitley Award for International Nature Conservation (International Award for Outstanding Leaders in Conservation, donated by WWF-UK) by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne
Commenting on the Award, Makala Jasper said that “Winning this award means a lot to us. It means MCDI can expand our work to an entirely new area, the first step to connect existing community forests and their wildlife with one of Africa's largest protected areas."

Expanding MCDI reach and impacts

Makala is of the view that MCDI is planning to use the Whitley Award Prize to expand its work to an entirely new community in south-eastern Tanzania, called 'Namatewa', where the initiative would support local people to own, protect and benefit from their forests by selling sustainable timber.

He said “This represents a significant first step towards closing the gap between the well-managed community forests we support in Kilwa District and the Selous Game Reserve- a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s largest protected areas, with an expanse of 44,799 km2.”

Strategic approach MCDI activities are maximising connectivity between these habitats saying they are crucial to ensure the viability of local wildlife populations, including elephants, hunting dogs and lions, which rely on large areas of intact forests for their survival. Moreover, the resulting conservation of forest cover will help mitigate and support local adaptation to climate change.

According to Makala, the community forests where MCDI works in south-eastern Tanzania comprise a patchwork of miombo woodlands – “arguably the most important wildlife preserve in the world” – interspersed with smaller pockets of coastal forests, a biodiversity hotspot of global importance.

“By showing communities how to generate income from these habitats through sustainable timber harvesting, we provide them with concrete incentives to protect forests, together with the unique wildlife contained within them.” he said.

Buffalo, warthog, elephant, hunting dog and lion are among the species of game found in south-east Tanzania. These large mammals require expansive areas of intact forest to roam; their survival is at risk as suitable forest habitats are increasingly cleared and fragmented.

Fragmentation also makes community forests more accessible to illegal loggers, and so it is in the interest of both wildlife and local people to ensure that large, contiguous areas of well protected forests are maintained.

This is why MCDI is working with Tanzanian communities and local government authorities to expand the area of forest under local stewardship, strengthening connectivity between these locally protected forests and national forest reserves to allow wildlife to travel freely from one forest block to the next.

Once MCDI have partnered with a community, where possible, the initiatives also team up with neighbour to set up locally protected forests that either adjoin one another and or flanked by national forest reserves.

“Just last year, we supported local people in Nanjirinji set aside 19,000 hectares of forest patch which link to their existing communal forest reserve to one in the adjacent village of Likawage.

At the same time, we helped beneficiaries in Likawage Village to expand their community forest further along the boundary of an adjacent national forest reserve,” he said.

The combined area of these contiguous forest blocks now exceeds 117,000 hectares almost five-times the range size of a pride of lions.

MCDI is also seeking funds to support a small farming community called Namatewa to engage in sustainable forest management.

If things go successful will represent a significant step towards closing the gap of previously unprotected forests which connect the Selous Game Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s largest protected areas), with the existing MCDI-supported forest communities and national forest reserves in south-eastern Tanzania.

Moreover, one of the two nationally recognised elephant corridors that link the Selous ecosystem to the coast through Kilwa District runs directly past Namatewa village, and so this could make a valuable contribution towards the conservation of these charismatic animals.

Together, we’re working with our community partners and local government authorities to integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, and poverty reduction strategies by 2020, said Makala.

MCDI was founded in the belief that Mpingo offers a unique opportunity for integrated conservation and rural development across large areas of its native habitat in Tanzania and Mozambique.

The aim is to use Mpingo as an economic tool to advance conservation of Mpingo’s natural habitat: Miombo and East African Coastal Forests through promoting sustainable and socially equitable exploitation of Mpingo and other valuable forest products.