Promoting safe motherhood through proper management of natural resources.

30Jan 2016
The Guardian
Promoting safe motherhood through proper management of natural resources.

Somoe Shaibu Kiyamba (28) of Nanjirinji village in Kilwa district is eight months pregnant. When she attended clinic at the dispensary early this month, the doctor told her that all was well and she would deliver sometime in February.

Somoe Shaibu Kiyamba

Kiyamba is not worried about her health despite the fact that this is her first pregnancy.She has been attending clinic throughout andhas been told that she would have a smooth delivery.

She is also not worried about things she and the baby would need because she has some money for the purpose, thanks to a system set by the village government that providesfinancial support all pregnant women.

“We have made some savings but the village government has also given me 30,000/- to meet my needs when I deliver,” she explained.
The village government has established a system to offer 30,000/- to all pregnant women when they reach their eighth month. The money should help parents to meet some needs for the baby and the mother so that they both remain healthy.

“When we started earning money from Nambumbila forest which belongs to the village, we thought we should spend some of it to help mothers deliver safely and promote better health services for mothers and their children generally.

The support is offered to both single and married women and is unconditional,” explained Abdallah Mnali, the village treasurer.

He was speaking to a group of journalists from various media houses who visited the village recently to learn how villages conserve forests, what benefits they get and if there are any challenges that go with conservation and protection of forests.

The journalists’ visit was part implementation of MamaMisituProgramme, a communication and advocacy strategy which aims at promoting good governance in the management of forests in the country.

It also seeks to raise awareness among Tanzanians to use forests resources in a sustainable manner so as to reduce poverty among communities particularly those living adjacent to forests. The programme is coordinated by the Tanzania Natural Resources Forum and Funded by the Finnish government.

According to Mnali, 130 women have benefited from the programme since its inception in 2012. “Initially the village government offered 50,000/- to every pregnant women when they were in their eighth month of pregnancy.

However, the number of pregnant women was increasing fast as a result of which we had to reduce the amount so that all of them could benefit,” he explained.

The treasures conceded that the money is not enough to meet all the needs of the women. “The basic responsibility of taking care of the pregnant woman and later the baby rests of the family.

The support given by the village government should only be over and above what families have prepared; this is well understood by all villagers,” he said. To improve services to pregnant women, Mnali said that the village plans to buy an ambulance that would ferry pregnant women to Ruangwa district hospital when they develop complications.

The village government has also spent income from sale of forest products to improve other social services. According to the village government secretary HamisMitweo, funds have also been spent in improving education and the supply of clean and safe water.

“We have drilled three shallow wells and fitted them with foot pumps. These supply clean and safe water to the villagers who formerly fetched water from open wells. The latter did not provide safe water for domestic use,” he said.

With money earned from sale of products from Nambumbila forest, the village has also built three classrooms, one teacher’s house and an office for the teachers. It has also bought school uniforms for more than 300 pupils this year, an exercise that is set to continue every year.

Nanjirinji has a long history of poverty and mismanagement of its forest. Nambumbila forest extends for 61,274 hectares. Selemani Rashid, the village chairman explained that before the forest came under the full management of the village, the village government earned only 100/- from each piece of timber that came from the forest. There were also instances when shrewd traders smuggled away timber, logs and building poles without paying a cent to the village government.

“In 2011, Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI), an NGO based in Kilwa town, came with a proposal to help us manage the forest so that we could earn more money.

The proposed indicated clearly that when the forest would be fully managed by the village government, we would not only stop depending on subsidies from Kilwa District Council, but we would also be able to improve services in the village,” he said.

Following cooperation with MCDI, the village government and the village environment committee received training in among other things, managing the forest, basic book keeping, preparing sustainable harvesting plans of the forest and conservation and protection methods.

The training was followed by village council and village assembly meetings, during which the village government explained issues to all the villagers.

“It was not easy to convince all the villagers to conserve and protect the forest in the hope of getting tangible benefits in future. However, today almost all the villagers are happy with improved social services and other benefits.

From earning a few hundred thousand shillings a year, we now earn an average of 60m/- annually and in total, we have earned 240m/- since we started to sell the first logs in 2012,” the Chairman said.

Besides support from MCDI, Nanjirinji also borrowed a leaf from Nainokwe Village also inKilwa District which by 2012 had established itself as a champion in participatory forest management and reaping fruits of their efforts.

By that year, the village had built the village office and the village executive officer’s house; it had built three classrooms and equipped them with desks to the extent that every pupil was sitting on a desk in the school. The village government had also bought uniforms and provided the environment committee with equipment for conducting patrols in and around the village forest.

It was also providing lunch for the school besides providing uniforms to all pupils whose families were unable to do so. Today the village government pays for health insurance for 35 elders.

Yet, like Nainokwe, Nanjirinji faces several problems in conserving and protecting its forest and ensuring that it continues to earn substantial income from the same.

“One major problem is the encroachment of farmers into the forest because there is fertile land. But it is not just about encroachment, farmers set fire to the forest when they prepare farms. This has sometimes resulted in destruction of price wood and has thus denied the village some income,” explained Nanjirinji village chairman.

The village uses militia to evict those who have encroached but recently they were promised support from the Lindi regional commissioner’s office that plans to take legal measures against those who have opened farms in the forest.

“ We have also the problem of wildfires especially during the dry season. This is a threat to the village’s income because products from a degraded forest do not fetch a good price in the market. If we do not get more money, our goal to further improve the social services in the village may not be reached,” said Rashid.

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