Traditional conservation vital to protect catcments

25Feb 2016
Lusekelo Philemon
The Guardian
Traditional conservation vital to protect catcments

IN 1970s, ritual practices were being used as an effective tool towards controlling natural forests and water catchments in Tanzania and Africa at large.


Environmentalists and hydrologists are now suggesting the need to embrace traditional conservation skills if Tanzania is to protect forests and water catchments from illegal loggers and encroachers.

Their suggestions came after the government teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) implement the USD27million project aimed at securing watershed services through sustainable land management in the Ruvu and Zigi catchments.

Ruvu catchment starts from Uluguru Mountains, while Zigi collects water from Amani Nature reserve all lying within the Eastern Arc Mountains.
“We’re concerned with dwindling of water sources as a result of human activities, but the challenge is on how we can get out of this trap,” says Exper Pius, who works with the Morogoro-based Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF).

He says that apart from other approaches in place, embracing traditional methods would help to address the challenge that threatens people lives living at the river basins.

Eng. Emmanuel Kalobelo, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, also implores the need to embrace traditional conservation methods.
He describes the use of traditional conservation methods would help in scaling-up forest conservation; hence, protect water catchments, which are on the peril of disappearance.

“Tanzania is amongst countries challenged by deforestation. Laws and policies are in place, but the country continues to lose hectares and hectares of forests annually; thus, it is imperative to recognize the role of traditional institutions in managing forests,” Eng. Kalobelo says.
He adds: “In Tanzania, we have environment friendly traditions. In some communities, people are denied access to natural forests. Access to the forest is granted by ritual leaders.”

Citing examples, the official says: “One time I went to Japan, and I found one of the communities which preserve natural forests, because they go for worshipping and other traditional rituals.”

According to the hydrologist, in 1970s, Uluguru Mountains used to flow water throughout the year, but now things have changed completely, putting water users in a tight angle.

“In those days, farming was simple as you exactly know exactly the planting season. But now, it is unpredictable. That’s why I think it’s important we go back to our roots,” Eng. Kalobelo says.

Nyumba Nitu Traditional Forest Reserve (NTFR) is one of the natural forests in southern highlands region of Njombe, whereby the forest remained intact, because traditional institutions are accepted and receive high respect by public at local level.

“This is because traditional institutional frameworks takes care the interest of local people. Access and user rights to NTFR are granted by ritual leaders,” says Abraham John, Iringa-based environmentalist.

He says: “This is due to regulated access and forest use. The study concludes that traditional institutions are effective in controlling forest use and sustaining forest resources.”

Gertrude Lyatoo is the head of environment at the UNDP said, “Forests in the catchments of Ruvu and Zigi, falls within the Eastern Arc Mountains which are recognized globally as important carbon storage and centers of species diversity and endemism.”

“These forests also provide critical watershed services, the continued functioning of which is being compromised by a host of human-induced pressures and poor land-use practices are threatening these ecosystems.

“The situation is made worse by high levels of poverty and population growth; inadequate infrastructure for providing clean water to communities, low levels of compliance with environmental and water-use regulations and a lack of coordination among various institutions and programs operating in the catchments,” the UNDP official says.

“The combined results of this phenomenon are that; both the quantity and quality of water in the Ruvu and Zigi river catchments is declining, undermining the existence of ecosystem services as well as water shortages for people and the environment.”

The catchment areas were in danger due to high levels of poverty pushed by population growth, inadequate infrastructure for providing clean water to communities along with inadequate capacity to enforce regulations.

Maximillian Sereka is a hydrologist and project coordinator for watershed management who says 27 districts in Morogoro, Tanga, Dar es Salaam and Coast regions are expected to actively take part in the project as Ruvu and Zigi catchments affect water provision levels in Dar es Salaam and Tanga.

The project is a redeemer to nearly eight million people who depend on the two catchments.

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