Zanzibar’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock and Fisheries (MANRLF), Makame Ali Ussi said this when speaking in Zanzibar yesterday during a validation workshop of finding of a study titled: ‘A Diagnostic on Social Protection Needs and Opportunities for Forest Dependent Communities in Zanzibar’.
Ussi appreciated FAO’s financial support to the study, saying: “My sincere appreciation goes to FAO leadership for its decision to work with our Ministry and also provide funding that made the study, that was conducted in both Unguja and Pemba, possible.”
He added: “The gathering here today is a testimony of how the Govt, development partners and the communities can join hands and work together in ensuring proper forest resources use and management to create opportunities and help in poverty alleviation.”
Deputy Minister Ussi said that the views on the findings to be collected from all the key stakeholders present at the validation workshop would be useful in providing a roadmap of what is to be done in order to address the presented challenges and therefore contribute to the overall objective of reducing poverty.
For his part, the FAO Representative to Tanzania, Fred Kafeero, appreciated the continued long-term partnership with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. “We highly acknowledge the collaboration and enabling working environment which facilitates effective establishment and implementation of initiatives aiming at jointly achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) including the call upon countries to expand social protection and achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable by year 2030,” he said.
Kafeero said that FAO is working to support governments to extend coverage of social protection to rural populations while enhancing coherence between social protection, agriculture and natural resource management; nutrition sensitive social protection and social protection in fragile and humanitarian contexts.
Social protection is increasingly being adopted as a strategy for reducing poverty and food insecurity and reducing vulnerability to shocks in developing countries. Social protection aims to mitigate these shocks and the related risks and also to build the resilience of vulnerable populations. ,” he disclosed
According to him, the importance of forests cannot be overstated since all life on earth depends on them. “Forests provide livelihoods for humans, provide essential ecosystem services that support agriculture by regulating water flows, stabilizes soils, maintains soil fertility, regulates climate, provides habitat for wild pollinators and predators of agricultural pests,” he mentioned.
The study advised the Government to speed up the process of revising the existing policies to address vulnerability issues affecting forest dependent communities (FDCs) in Zanzibar.
It was conducted with financial support of FAO and called for development of a clear roadmap for improvement of social protection aiming at improved livelihood of the FDCs.
Presenting the findings and recommendations during the validation workshop in Zanzibar, on behalf of Dr. Iddi Hussein Hassan who led a team of six experts responsible for the study, researcher Aziza Yunus Nchimbi said that the driving factors were the limited understanding on the magnitude and impact of vulnerability for FDCs and its implication on livelihoods around forest protected areas of Zanzibar.
“The study aimed to generate and increase understanding and insight into both poverty and vulnerability of the FDCs, generated by socio-economic transition, environmental and natural disasters, in Zanzibar,” she said.
Assessing the vulnerabilities for FDCs is an important factor that could help to determine the strengths, weakness and opportunities of forestry policy and other established programs with regard to Social Protection for FDCs around Forest Protected Areas (FPAs), Ms. Nchimbi added.
According to her, the study explored the magnitude and depth of social protection vulnerability of FDCs living around four forest protected areas of Zanzibar - Jozani National Park, Ngezi-Vumawimbi Nature Forest Reserve, Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest Reserve and Msitu Mkuu Forest Reserve.
Although, the presence of social protection schemes and institutional support varied with Shehia and districts, about half and eighteen percent of the respondents agreed that the schemes were effective and very effective respectively in reducing some of their livelihood challenges.
The study has also recognized presence of a number of national laws, policies, strategies and plans that support provision of social protection services in Zanzibar. “However, despite presence of various legal frameworks and instruments on social protection around study area, FDCs are not well mainstreamed and recognized by existing policies and instrument which deepens their level of vulnerability and poverty,” Ms. Nchimbi noted.
The findings revealed that FDCs, over 74 percent of whom depended on agriculture, were poor and vulnerable due to climate change challenges and besides, they were reported to have limited access to forest resources, limited involvement during community planning; and having ‘no say’ to hoteliers who pollute their environment, among other findings.
Participants at the validation workshop included agriculture, livestock and fisheries experts from MANRLF, civil society organizations, community members, forest experts from FAO headquarters in Rome, social protection experts, among many others.