According to Tanzania government report entitled “Tanzania’s Forest Reference Emission Level Submission to the UNFCC” of November 2017; Tanzania losses 469,420 ha of natural forests per annum! This makes Tanzania amongst countries with high rate of deforestation of natural forests in Africa.
Forests in the general land are the most affected compared to forests in protected areas as they are subjected to various forms of degradation.
In an interview, Director of Sustainable Holistic Development Foundation (SUHODE Foundation), Frank Luvanda said among others, the most leading drivers of deforestation in Tanzania are agricultural expansion (shifting agriculture), energy demand in the form of firewood and charcoal, extraction of timber and logging, high increment of human population, and rural livelihoods that are heavily dependent on natural forests especially for extraction of charcoal and firewood.
Citing an example of energy demand for charcoal and firewood, he said one can realize how this one driver affects largely the well being of natural forests in Tanzania. Energy demand stands out to be amongst key drivers of deforestation in Tanzania. The Tanzania’s Sustainable Energy for All Action Agenda 2015 states that “In terms of primary energy consumption, biomass represents 90 percent of the energy consumed in Tanzania. Electricity represents 1.5 percent and petroleum products represent 8 percent of the energy consumption in the country.
Solar, coal, wind and other sources represent around 0.5 percent of the total energy…” Furthermore, when it comes to energy for cooking the same SE4ALL Action Agenda shows categorically that 90.2 percent of rural households in Tanzania uses firewood for cooking and heating while 62 percent of households in urban areas use charcoal for cooking and heating.
Based on the above data as provided by the Tanzania’s SE4ALL Action Agenda, 2015; it is correct and right to assert that energy demand for cooking and heating contribute towards speedy deforestation of natural forests in Tanzania hence paving a way towards desertification.
“It is time the government and other stakeholders including local governments took concrete actions to reduce deforestation of natural forests at least by 60 percent. We should support and abide with various multilateral environmental agreements such as the United Nations Convention in Combating Desertification (UNCCD), United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (UNCBD), Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” he said
Furthermore, he adds, any efforts of reducing deforestation should be in line with the various national policies legal framework such as National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), National Energy Policy of 2015, Forest Act No 14 of 2002, etc.
It should be noted that natural forests are home to many water sheds and sources, river banks, and wildlife habitats hence providing unprecedented livelihood support to human beings and other living organism.
Having learned the plight which is befalling on natural forests in Tanzania, SUHODE Foundation, a nongovernmental organization based in Morogoro region, and with support from WWF and SIDA has embarked on facilitating local communities in rural areas to use Affordable Improved Cook Stoves (AICS) that reduce more than 50 percent of biomass consumption. Some of the beneficiaries of SUHODE Foundation are Mchakama villagers in Kilwa district. In an interview with the Guardian recently, the local communities said that they have reduced frequencies of entering the forests in search for firewood by 50 percent. SUHODE Foundation is one among other partner CSOs implementing the project entitled ‘Leading the Change: Civil Societies, Rights and Environment.’ under WWF Tanzania with funding from Sweden International Development Agency (SIDA).
Luvanda suggested that environmental conservation education should be provided right from primary school to college level so that the general public can value the forests and other life supporting systems.
Commenting on the project, former Mchakama village Chairman Salum Msusa who has just retired said that the project has created awareness and built capacity for the villagers on reduced dependence on the forest resource and now it was the responsibility of the village government in collaboration with the district council to scale up the project.
After realizing the importance of forest conservation and the benefits accrued from the forests resource, the village government plans to ensure large number of households in the village use these affordable improved cook stoves or other types of improved cook stoves for the purpose of saving our natural forests, wildlife habitats, and water sources, said retired village Chairman Msusa.
We call on stakeholders to come up with initiatives like improved cook stoves to supplement government efforts to combat deforestation. These efforts will in the long time help in reducing poverty and food insecurity and contribute in mitigating the negative effects of climate change, said senior advisor and field expert, Haruni Chiyawi.