Forest enriches villagers in record short span

13Feb 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
The Guardian
Forest enriches villagers in record short span

It was a moment of joy this week among Nanjirinji “A” villagers in Kilwa District as they narrated a story about how they buried their bitter past for a brighter future in which they would never again have to brave miles away in search for drinking water from dubious sources.

CEO of Tanzania Forest Service Agency Charles Ng'atingwa

They were revealing the success secrets to journalists and Mama Misitu campaigners, who were curious to establish whether their four-year Communication Programme launched in 2012 to help communities manage forests and benefit from the resource, has been a success.

The programme coordinated by the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF) and funded by the Finish government was aimed at instituting good governance of forests and promote sustainable harvesting of resources among local communities.

But the villagers had an impressive image to portray as the visitors became witnesses over water in abundance in eight wells built in the first year of the programme at a cost of Sh27m worth sales of products from the neighbouring 61,274-hectare Nambubila forest reserve owned by the village.

They had been selling logs, timber, building poles and other forest products since 2012, earning substantial revenues from which they used to improve social service.

Rashid Kindala, the village chairman, explained that before 2012 the village had been earning little money out of forest products because they were not involved in the Participatory Forest Management system which would have allowed them to manage the forest.

Under the system the village conserves, protects and harvests the forest sustainably and owns 100 per cent of revenue that comes from forest sales. Currently, the village earns an annual average of Sh60m by implementing the programme.

Abdalla Mnali , the village treasurer said that the village had been earning itself quite a number of customers even from beyond ever since the campaign started more than three years ago.

Sabiam Mtema, a mother of five said gone were the days when she used to walk a long distance toiling the weather and other environmental turbulent only to end up with muddy water with irritating smell for domestic use.

“We had no option, but to spend the day out there looking for water, leaving other family matters at home at the mercy of God,” she said, adding “now we all enjoy clean and safe water at a stone throw, thanks to the village government that drilled the wells."

The increase in revenues and the subsequent improvement of social services including construction of a school building and teachers’ homes have, establishment of a maternity fund in turn, had motivated villagers into conserving and protecting their forest.

Earlier, they would send their children to a school in a nearby village of Nanjirinji “B” as such facility was an unaffordable luxury for them, says Acting Ward Executive Officer Halid Joseph Bakari.

Mwanahawa Hamisi is one of 140 beneficiaries of the maternity fund which provides Sh30,000 to an eight-month pregnant woman to run expense typical of an expectant mother.
But the Acting Ward Executive Officer, Halid Bakari says the amount was a result of a slash down from the earlier Sh50,000 due to drastic increase in the number of the expectant mothers in the village.

However, “all they have to do is to flash their clinic cards to village secretary to have their allowances as their labour days approach,” says Bakari.

But Mnali says the price rise in various types of wood have also motivated the villagers into getting serious with the business, citing an example of mpingo wood whose selling price jumped by Sh30,000 this year from Sh230,000 per cubic foot last year and mninga that now sells at Sh235,000 per cubic foot would fetch only Sh204,800 a few months ago.

Despite the achievement, the village has faced a number of challenges in protecting its forest.

Chairperson of the village natural resources committee Kindala Mteleka says the challenges include encroachment of farmers who cut down trees from large chunks of the forest, paving way for illegal harvesters disguised as the former, citing an incident when the farmers apprehended an illegal harvester and had his motorcycle burned down.

“The village has tried in vain to get the forest rid of farmers. We have now resorted to patrols that we have already bought six motorcycles for the purpose," she says.