MPs unhappy with wantonly tree felling, call for swift measures

09Jun 2021
Gerald Kitabu
The Guardian
MPs unhappy with wantonly tree felling, call for swift measures
  • to avert the trend

​​​​​​​MEMBERS of Parliament from two committees—Lands, Natural Resource and Tourism and Industries, Trade and Environment have expressed concern over current swift rate of natural forest deforestation, promising to advice the government act by taking concrete measures to stop it.

MPs from two committees: Lands, Natural Resource and Tourism and Industries, Trade and Environment chairmen Aloyce Kwezi and David Kihenzile making their remarks at the meeting that involved their committees and the natural forest conservators in Dodoma over the weekend. Photo: Correspondent Gerald Kitabu

They made the promise in Dodoma over the weekend after the discussion with the natural resource conservators at a meeting aimed at raising awareness so that the two parties could have common understanding and advise the government on the best ways of conserving and managing the swift disappearing natural forests.

In their concluding remarks, Land, Natural Resource and Tourism Parliamentary Committee Chairman Aloyce Kwezi and Industries, Trade and Environment Chairman David Kihenzile explained that their committees have understood the concept, causes of deforestation and proposed plans and strategies to conserve the natural forests.

“We have received the recommendations and on behalf of the two committees we shall advice the government to borrow a leaf from you so that together we can effectively and efficiently conserve the disappearing natural forests,” said Kwezi.

Earlier on, the natural forests conservators from Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), Mpingo Conservation Development Initiative (MCDI) and Tanzanian Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA) took less than one hour to present their research findings on the causes and concrete  measures to curb the ongoing swift deforestation of natural forests on the village land across Tanzania.

Presenting the measures that should be taken to rescue the natural forests on behalf of other forest conservators, Project Manager from TFCG Charles Leonard said laws, policies and regulation governing the forest resource are conflicting with others from other sectors such as agriculture, energy and water.

Therefore, he said, they should be reviewed. “We are requesting you members of Parliament to advice the government to examine these laws, policies and regulations governing natural forest resource, agriculture, energy and water resource  and hamornize them so that they can’t conflict each other,” he said.

Leonard further outlined that in order to govern the forest well, the government should promote and invest in CBFM and community forests conservation through sustainable forest based enterprise support (CoForEST) in every village across the country.

“The main goal of this project is to promote Sustainable pro-community natural forest management in ways that transforms the economics and governance of forest product value chains and contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” he said.

He also proposed the government to protect community rights to manage their forests, including deciding on forest harvesting, as set out in the Forest Act and Village Land Act.

He also recommended that the government should maintain favorable policy environment for CBFM, including removal of the policy barrier imposed through GN 417 of 2019. The government need to develop and implement national CBFM strategy. There is also a need to develop partners to support the government of Tanzania and local communities through International climate financing to implement CBFM

For her part, Executive director of Tanzanian Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA), Rahima Njaidi said the new policies and laws like the GN 417 which takes away the powers of the community in terms of the whole harvesting issue, it takes away the powers of the communities to decide who are the buyers, who are the harvesters.

“We know that policies and laws are there but in any given communities, to engage the communities in forest management is very important. So, the issue is how to we enforce these laws to make sure that communities are real participating and benefiting from these forest resources?,” she said.

She said it is important to give the local communities their rights to participate and benefit from the forest for sustainable management of the forests.

We have the forest Act of 2002, the village land Act of 1999, we also have the local government authorities Act of 1982 which all give the communities in the village powers and ownership of the resources. So, the only thing we have to do as a nation is to implement these laws as they are.

MCDI Executive director Jasper Makala pointed out the need for using modern technology so that the communities could go into value chain for more benefits.

Citing an example of Kilwa villages, he explained that when the local communities are engaged in the forest value chain can enhanced socio-economic development in rural areas.

“Kilwa villagers have stopped from selling logs, now they are selling forest value chains and the harvesting is conducted sustainably using machines with high technology that also adds to recovery rate,” he said.

“From the experience, the local communities have stopped illegal harvesting using Chain saws and now they have embarked on high technology. This value addition has improved participation of the local communities and improved forest conservation and management.

Explaining the real situation on the ground, TFCG Executive director Charles Meshack said policy, decision makers and the government in particular should understand that there is a huge problem in the near future that might prompt the natural forests on the village land to disappear within 30 to fifty years time.

He said that one of the main challenges facing natural forests is the conversion of forest into other land use such a agriculture, a situation which has accelerated rapid deforestation.

He said Tanzania basically has 48.1million hectares of forests of which about 45 percent is on the village land that is about 22 million hectares. “Out of these  22 million hectares, it is only five million hectares that are under community based forest management (CBFM), the rest which is 17 million is not under any kind of CBFM,” he said.

“ With increase of population, these forests are likely to disappear within 50 years to come or less, he said.

He said there are several challenges that has caused rapid deforestation, citing competing land use which are very necessary in terms of development. This include agriculture, he said.

“When you increase production of crops, it is in the expense of clearing the forests. The other challenge is not recognizing the value of the natural forests. In most cases the law under the land Act does not give value to the natural forests, normally the compensation is zero percent, however general perception is on land. So, this discourages communities to conserve these natural forests. So, the law has to look at natural forests as part of development, he said.

Another challenge is the competing interests between sectors and this is related to the law, citing the GN 417 of 2019, he said this acts like a stumbling block as it does not create incentives for the communities already have CBFM.

So, one of the solutions that we have seen is to build  capacity for the communities so that they can implement community based forest management (CBFM) which means they can set aside some of these forests, become the owner and harvest them sustainably.

Contributing to the discussion, a member of Parliamentary committee member for Land, Natural Resource and Tourism Soud Mohamed Jumah advised the natural forest  conservators and advised that they should write a short Executive summary like a policy brief analyzing research findings, policy implications and recommendations to help them advise the government well.

“This Executive summary will be helpful to all of us. But I would also advise you to go further and add value to the forest products which means instead of selling timbers, the community can start selling tables and chairs,” he said.

A Member of Parliament for Kawe who is also Parliamentary committee member for the Industries, Trade and Environment Bishop Josephat Gwajima welcomed the forest conservators to his Constituency particularly Mabwepande where there are forests to support CBFM and community forests conservation through sustainable forest based enterprise

A Parliamentary committee member for the Industries, Trade and Environment Charles Kimei commended CBFM initiatives being taken by the natural forest conservators and asked the government to borrow a leaf  and implement the same in Kilimanjaro to protect the forests around Mount Kilimanjaro and other parts of region. 

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