Forest Regulations2019 Notice 417poses bigrisk for forest conservation

13Jul 2020
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
Forest Regulations2019 Notice 417poses bigrisk for forest conservation

On 24th May 2019, the government published The Forest Regulations, 2019 Gazettement Notice 417. These regulations differ from the Forest Act 2002 and previous regulations. The new regulations have introduced different changes which environmental and forest experts, aside from other stakeholders-

-say they may pose a big risk on modalities of community-based forest management (CBFM).

The establishment and management of village land forest reserves by village governments is provided by   policy statements number 5 and 6 of the National Forestry Policy of 1998 and sections 32 to 41 and 65 (3), 78 (3) along with 97 (1) (b), of the Forest Act No. 14 of 2002. The process starts with preparation of village land use plans, based on provision of sections 12, 13, 22,33 and 35 of the Land Use Plan Act of 2007, through which villages allocate areas for village forests. The government in collaboration with development partners has been implementing CBFM since 1986, and led to establishment of about 1.4 million hectors of village land forest reserves (VLFRs) across the country by 2019.

CBFM in Kilwa district, Lindi region

Through CBFM, Kilwa residents in Lindi region recognized that forests have wide environmental, social and economic benefits for them, other people, the nation and the planet. They also understand that forests play a significant role in the livelihoods of the rural poor throughtheir provision of goods and services. They therefore, keen to protect their forests against any illegal forest practice.In Nanjirinji village for example, the villagers have raised a total of eight hundred million shillings (800m/-) from CBFM. They have managed to turn their forest into opportunities for wealth. Nanjirinji village chairman Mohamedi Mussa said the village in collaboration with Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) started implementing CBFM in 2012. They worked on a land use plan and set aside village land forest reserves from Bumbila forest. Within a very short period, revenues accrued from the first village land forest reserve led to establishing the second village land forest reserve, so they have two VLFRs. Since then, the villagers have been using their forest revenues to support improved health facilities, build schools, the village guest house and drill water wells, among other benefits. The village success story is worth emulating for other villages and decision makers. This tells us that forest conservation is possible and tangible results can be derived from forests. “So if there are any new regulations, they will only be discouraging our efforts to conserve the forest and taking away our rights and economy of the village”, he said. 

Commenting on CBFM, village executive officer Hassan Mkunguru said the village is proud of community-based forest management as this arrangement gives rural communities like Nanjirinjito means of supporting their economic empowerment. The project has added value to local forest uses by developing local forest-based enterprises. Since 2012, CBFM has facilitated attitude shift among villagers to move beyond a focus wholly on local subsistence use, to a range of commercial initiatives and ventures.

“We are also supporting social services in our village. For example we support 100,000/- for each primary school pupil who passes standard seven examination to join form one, and we are also providing 50,000/- for each expectant mother to facilitate them with labor accessories,” he said.

To date, Nanjirinji village through Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) is promoting forest conservation and at the same time creating opportunities for communities to benefit from managing forest reserves under their village land. It has so far has attracted many people especially the youth from outside the village. Any attempt to implement GN 417 will be setting back efforts and achievements registered by the villagers and their partners, he emphasised.

At Mchakama village, CBFM has played a key role to conserve natural forests and associated biodiversity. Revenues from forest-based enterprises are enough charm to beacon communities to opt for forest conservation than any other income generating activity. They are no longer clearing forest for charcoal and farming. The forest and land management programs implemented in CBFM project sites have also educated them on sustainable harvesting and technologies. These programs have significantly contributed to natural forest and biodiversity rejuvenation in village land forest reserves.

Former village chairman Salum Msusa explained that since the intervention of MCDI with support from WWF Tanzania a couple of years ago, the villagers have benefited a lot from Uchungwa village land forest reserve.

“In fact, the forest has turned out to be the pearl of Mchakama village as money accrued from forest products have been used to buy solar power for Mchakama village dispensary and building a house for the clinician-in-charge. Unlike in the past, all round availability of power has helped the villagers to access medical and health service at the health facility day and night,” he said.

Clinicians said before the installation of solar power, they were using torches but with the new solar technology, they can administer medical services throughout day and night.

The installation of power has helped to administer emergency services during night like attending to expectant and delivering mothers.

The secretary of the Village Natural Resources Committee Ahamadi Abdallah Ligambe said from 2016 to 2018 the village earned millions of shillings from timber harvests.  50 percent was village dividend, 5 percent went to the Kilwa district council, MCDI received 5 percent as voluntary contribution by the community, and the remaining went to the village natural resource committee as operational funds.

 “The 50 percent from the forest proceeds is allocated for village development activities. For example, beside building a new toilet for pupils, the village has constructed the clinician house for 44m/- and renovated the village government office with 1m/-, ” he said.

 “Some of the money has been used to start a goat project and build capacity of the Natural Resources Committee like buying a patrols motorcycle, uniforms and meeting other operational costs,” he said. 

Commenting on individual benefits, the villagers said they have been trained on different aspects. For example good governance training enabled the committee to effectively play their role in managing the forest and supervise benefit sharing. Women engagement has improved their confidence and now some of them hold good positions in village committees.

Liwiti village in Kilwa district is another village implementing CBFM. It is one of 14 such villages,  endowed with well conserved Miombo woodlands in the Ruvuma landscape, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC certification improves the villages’ prospects to benefit from a high and better timber price at the international market compared to local markets.

The villagers in collaboration with the District Council, Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) and WWF have implemented a project on community sustainable harvesting and timber processing at Namatuli and Liwiti village land forest reserve. With the certification, they managed to raise enough money to build two classrooms at 26m/-  in 2011, built a teachers’ office at 5m/, and in 2016 to 2018, constructed two teachers’ houses at more than 40m/-.

In 2017, the village government gave 22 students around 2.2m/- as they passed to join secondary school, each student receiving 100,000/-. From 2013 to 2019, the village managed to provide 30 bags of food for the pupils’ midday meal worth 500,000/-, in purchasing buying and transport costs. 

“In January 2015, we managed to buy food for the villagers with 800,000/- , which helped to rescue the villagers from effects of a grain shortage, said the village chairman.

Some money was used to buy textbooks for teachers, for 600,000/-, another 750,000/- was used to buy two school national flags, equipping the school band and allowances for the buyers.

Also in the list, the village managed to pay National Health Insurance at about 7m/- for the Village Natural Resources Committee at its expiry in 2017. They bought uniforms at a total of 12m/- at different occasions. However, from 2018/19 the budget increased for their NHIF whereby the village paid 30,000/- for each member, spending a total of 4,500,000/-.

“If it happens that I meet neighbouring villages, I will advice them to certify their forest so that they can get better prices and increase their income,” he said.

Women benefits

Commenting on how women have benefited from forest conservation, a member of the Village Natural Resources Committee Salima Msham said that women have acquired knowledge and skills on forest conservation.

“A few years ago, the village faced hunger. The village convened the meeting and decided that we should use part of the money to buy some food for the villagers. We wrote to the Kilwa District Executive Director and he approved our request. The food was bought and distributed among the villagers. As women we think this was big support,” she said.

Forest products have helped them in many ways, as community sustainable harvesting and timber processing, Grumeti timber company placed an order for large number of sawn timber pieces from the village.

She said the income accrued from the certified sawn timber has motivated villagers to now collaborate with development partners like MCDI and WWF to properly manage the forests, she said.

“As a woman I have benefited a lot from forest conservation. For example, in December last year I participated in the patrol team and received an allowance of 10,000/- . I used the money to buy three counter books for my school child.

“After a short time, I was picked up again to join the patrol team and paid 10,000/- which I used to buy uniforms for my secondary school child,” she adds.

“A few years ago, my husband was involved in a car accident and broke his leg. The village gave me 30,000/- from the village development fund and I took him to hospital. These are some of the benefits and personal achievements registered on account of forest conservation,” she said.

Individual benefits

A villager and beneficiary, Rashid Abdallah who was trained to operate the chainsaw said he has worked for four years now and managed to buy a plot and iron-sheets, built a house.

“Before getting trained in chainsaw, I was engaged in farming, but could not realize actual benefits. Forest conservation has more benefits because it provides employment as well,” he said.

Citing an example he said the village processed 100cubic meter logs, so if the villagers sold the logs as they are, they would get 26m/- but after processing the timbers the village got 67.2m/-.

Other benefits include employment, technical training and individual income for auxiliary tasks at the mobile sawmill area.

Forest certification has its own importance because if the forest is certified, the products would be accepted internationally as they are considered to come from the forest conserving communities. This adds more value to the forest products than conserving uncertified forest.

How do the new regulations differ from the Forest Act 2002 and previous regulations and what are the implications?

Having seen how CBFM works and the benefits accrued from it, now let us see what the new regulation entails and the new changes. In fact the new regulations differ from the Forest Act and previous regulations in the following ways: first is the reallocating of responsibility for the preparation of Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR) harvesting plans from the Village Council to the Director of Forestry.  The Forest Act 2002 states that Village Councils are responsible for preparing management plans for Village Land Forest Reserves. This includes planning for harvesting and sustainable use, in Village Land Forest Reserves. Village Councils’ right to decide over the management of village land and village land forests, is further provided for under the Village Land Act 1999 and the Local Government (District Authorities) Act 1982. The 2019 regulations reallocate responsibility for the preparation of harvesting plans on village land, to the Director of Forestry. The implication is that decision-making power over the use of village land forests has been taken away from the village council and reallocated to the Director of Forestry. The regulations contradict the ‘mother law’ which is the Forest Act which grants decision-making powers to the village council.The regulations contradict the Village Land Act 1999 which also grants decision-making powers over village land management to village councils. Furthermore, the regulations contradict the Local Government (District Authorities) Act 1982 which grants the Village Councils the right to pass by-laws on all affairs and business of a village. Also the regulations run counter to the National Forest Policy which stipulates community-based forest management as the policy tool for the management of forests on village land.

About the reallocating responsibility for issuing harvesting permits in village land forest reserves from the village council to the district forest produce harvesting committee, the Forest Act 2002 states that Village Councils are responsible for the management of Village Land Forest Reserves. This includes issuing harvesting permits in Village Land Forest Reserves. The 2019 regulations reallocate responsibility for issuing harvesting permits in village land forest reserves (and throughout all village land) to the District Forest Produce Harvesting Committee. Now the implication is that the regulations contradict the ‘mother law’ i.e. the Forest Act 2002. The regulations also contradict the Village Land Act 1999 which grants decision-making powers to the village council. The regulations contradict the Local Government (District Authorities) Act 1982 which grants the Village Councils the right to pass by-laws on all affairs and business of a village. Decision-making power over forest management, has been taken away from communities and granted to the District Forest Produce Harvesting Committee.Community-based forest management is undermined and communities are disempowered, as decision making over productive use has been shifted from the village.

Contacted for comment, Kilwa District Executive Director Renatus Mchau and the District Commissioner Christopher Ngubiagai explained that CBFM is very useful, noting that the new regulations introduced by the government shall compromise CBFM and forest conservation.

“CBFM has managed to protect forests and has improved rural livelihoods. With support from MCDI and WWF, communities of Likawage, Nanjirinji, Liwiti and Mchakama are among village obtaining significant economic benefits from forest resources, said Ngubiagai.

The villagers have managed to control illegal harvesting and encroachment. MCDI and WWF have trained them a system for sustainably harvesting and selling forest products to generate income for the community hence supporting the district and government efforts to improve their livelihood. Some villagers such as Liwiti have managed to achieve Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and their forests have been recognized in the world market. Now they have greater market access and potential price premiums for certified timber harvested from the VLFRs. Therefore any changes on the CBFM and the regulations would have negative effects on the forest conservation drive and the environment at large.