Forest stakeholders concerned over Government Notice 417

29Nov 2019
Gerald Kitabu
Morogoro
The Guardian
Forest stakeholders concerned over Government Notice 417

FOREST stakeholders have advised the government to change its decision on the recent announced Government Notice 417, which among other controversial provisions, it requires the Director of Forests and Beekeeping Divisions to prepare management plans and harvesting plans across the country and-

Charles Meshack

-approve them saying it is contrary to the directive of the Act 2012.

Speaking at the 19th Annual General Meeting of the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA) in Morogoro yesterday, Executive Director for Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) Charles Meshack said the main challenge with the GN 417 in terms of implementation is that it goes contrary to the forest Act 2012 which gives power to the communities to prepare management plans, prepare by-laws, and also prepare harvesting plans and these are normally approved by the village assembly and later on endorsed by the respective district councils.

The GN 417 issued on 24th of May 2019 refers to control of harvesting of the forest products from all types of forest land that include government land, village land and even land under community based forest management (CBFM)

The Act 2012 gives power to the communities to prepare management plans, prepare by-laws, and also prepare harvesting plans and these are normally approved by the village assembly and later on endorsed by the respective district councils, that has been the process,”

He said currently the investment of the village land forest reserves have been almost coming from development partners which has succeeded to bring CBFM about six million hectares which are under proper management of CBFM, but in total the forest on the village land is about 22 million hectares.  So, if you go into details, about 16 million hectares of forests on the village land are not well managed. They are open to agricultural land for growing different crops such as Sesame, cashew nuts etc.

So long as the communities get returns and some money from agriculture and they are assured of tenure and also own that land, they will continue conducting unsustainable agriculture. That means the natural forests are undervalued.

With GN 417 of May 2019, it adds some more bureaucracy because it requires the Director of Forests and Beekeeping Divisions to prepare management plans and harvesting plans across the country and approve them which is contrary to the directive of the Act 2012 because the Act requires the Director to comment and provide advice rather than approving. But another question is the capacity of these directors across the country to prepare these management plans. “So far, according to my experience the directors have never prepared any kind of management plans  second with regard to CBFM, the harvesting power has been shifted to the district harvesting committee of which the district commissioner is the chair of these harvesting committees,” he said.

If you look at the functions it is basically grabbing power from the village government assembly to make their decisions. It is contrary to the Act 2012 and also contrary to other processes.

So, we see the GN, as much as it want to protect these forests but it doesn’t provide any incentives for the communities to invest in CBFM. So, the major worry for us the GN will actually discourage the CBFM which means in the future it will accelerate high rate of conversion of these natural forests into agricultural land, said Revocatus Njau, chairperson of Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network.

We need to see these forests as strategic projects. The government must invest in CBFM and make sure that there are harvesting plans where the communities can have incentives from selling charcoal or timber sustainably, this programme will enable the communities to receive permanent incentives because they will be harvesting sustainably for the rest of their life and with incentives, they will not be ready to convert these forest because currently, forests have no incentives.

Commenting on the GN 417, Morogoro Regional natural Resource Officer Joseph Chuwa said that the GN is meant to control of the use of all forests products irrespective of ownership but do not deprive the right of ownership.

“When formulating this GN some important stakeholders especially the communities were not involved, a situation that has contributed to fear in its implementation despite the fact that it is can favour them in some ways,” he said.

Earlier on, Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA) Executive Director said that the AGM brought together communities from six zones, experts, conservationists and other stakeholders to discuss and recommend the best ways of proper forest management.