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Forests without Borders

March 16, 2018
tags:#forest management, #indigenous, #Mama Misitu Campaign, #mining, #REDD Programme
by:Kolawole Talabi
In managing and preserving Tanzania’s remaining forests, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, through its Forestry and Beekeeping Division, has decentralised the forest management system by introducing participatory strategies that seek to encourage greater community involvement, a Centre for Forestry Research paper notes.

The Joint Forest Management (JFM) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) are two such participatory strategies. Under the CBFM, communities living on or near forest reserves enjoy full ownership of forest estates and are directly involved in the management of forest resources. As at 2008, the coverage of the CBFM stood at 2 million hectares of forests, involving more than 1,000 villages. Although less widespread, unlike the CBFM (due to conflict in sharing revenues between forest departments and their associated host communities), the JFM has a strong positive impact on governance structures at the local level.

Another such collaboration is the National Forest Programme, whose goal entails integrating and harmonising the different contributions of governmental, non-governmental, private sector, and local community stakeholders in the execution of national forest policy and law.

Tanzania has also taken steps to bring regional partners on board. In November 1999, the government signed the East African Community Treaty — a multilateral agreement for regional cooperation that covers Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. The treaty obliges each signatory to “identify, promote and protect indigenous and traditional knowledge associated with biological resources and ecosystems; to strengthen national plans, programs and legislation for forest management, inventory and monitoring; and to share information on trade in illegally harvested forest products.” Conservationists view this move as particularly important because illegal loggers often form networks that span several countries and jurisdictions.

Although there is a strong political will to sustainably manage forest resources, several issues still impede progress. These include weak administration, undefined structures for stakeholder benefit-sharing, and poor enforcement of forest laws and regulations.

“Despite a relatively advanced policy and legal framework for forest management in Tanzania, illegal and corruptive activities in the country are made possible by poor communication, information dissemination, and a lack of transparency in decision making,” says Abigail Wills, technical adviser of the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MDCI), a non-governmental organisation that works to conserve the Mpingo, a tropical tree that is commonly harvested for export in Tanzania.

But the MCDI and its partners have continued working to address these challenges through an intervention called the Mama Misitu Campaign. Launched in 2008, the campaign was created to raise awareness of key forest governance issues in Tanzania, build the capacity of local and regional authorities and law enforcement agencies to perform good forest governance, and to make forest-adjacent communities aware of their rights to land and forest resources, along with their true value.

Corridors: A path for conservation

“Communities around protected areas need support in the management of natural resources so that they can benefit directly from conservation, protect water and fuel supplies and better manage human-animal conflicts,” says Tim Davenport, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) program in Tanzania. “Given the intrinsic link between the environment and sustainable development, conservation must maintain an equilibrium between human and ecosystem needs.”

Davenport has had a ringside experience of the complex interplay of factors contributing to high levels of deforestation, forest degradation and the consequential loss of wildlife habitats in Tanzania having worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society for almost two decades. From five regional offices in Arusha, Iringa, Mbeya, Zanzibar and Lupatingatinga, he oversees a staff of 108 people, of which only eight are expatriates. This large family of “eco-warriors” carry out a broad range of conservation activities that include education, research and training, monitoring, institutional support, and the establishment, extension and management of protected areas.

In Tanzania, one of the most important projects of the Wildlife Conservation Society is the establishment, protection, and restoration of wildlife corridors linking the country’s many protected areas. Wildlife corridors are open zones that connect protected areas such as national parks, game reserves, forest reserves or conservation centres. Connected landscapes provide a means through which animals or even plant seeds can move between habitat patches that are not contiguous. Among the benefits of these corridors are reducing the possibility of in-breeding thus maintaining the genetic diversity of local species, providing a pathway for escape in the event of forest fires and lowering the incidence of communicable diseases.

Despite the benefits of corridors to conservation, the expansion of farmlands, mining activities, construction of transport networks, unplanned land-use strategies and sometimes, the migration of internally displaced persons in addition to cross-border refugees are among the biggest threats to these ecological pathways. In Tanzania, the isolation of protected areas negatively impacts interspecies interaction, disrupts the routes of migratory animals and makes conservation efforts rather difficult given the large territory of the country. Proponents of wildlife corridors like Tim Davenport have been gathering evidence and documenting their disappearance for years. In a 2008 report, they warned of the dire state of existing corridors, with many likely to disappear within five years at current rates of habitat loss. Still, others stand to vanish even more quickly.

“Five corridors are in extreme condition and could disappear within 2 years unless immediate action is taken,” the report states.

They have been some changes such as the rewilding of the Bujingijila corridor which was executed by the World Conservation Society as part of a REDD+ programme but most of these corridors are still unmanaged and disappearing fast.

Take for instance the Loazi-Lwafi, one of the five corridors mentioned in the report, runs along Lake Tanganyika in the Rukwa region and it is very important for its chimpanzee and elephant populations. This corridor connects two protected areas — the Loazi Forest Reserve and the Lwafi Game Reserve. Both protected areas including the corridor between them have been left unmanaged. The remoteness of the region and its close proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo has facilitated encroachment by bushmeat hunters who poach chimps for sale across the border.

Another corridor, the Manyara-Ngorongoro located in northern Tanzania, is used by buffaloes and elephants moving between the Manyara National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The biggest threat to this corridor is increased human settlement and its attendant subsistence cultivation but steps have been taken to stop cultivation. Yet the presence of homes and livestock still pose challenges to the corridor.

“Less than 50 years ago wildlife used to use all these reserves through the corridors,” Davenport says. “Now they cannot, and isolated populations form and often wither. These issues also create conflicts between communities and between humans and wildlife.”

Besides their biodiversity significance, wildlife corridors are also important to the Tanzanian economy, with tourism currently accounting for 17 percent of the country’s GDP.

In its work to improve the state of Tanzania’s wildlife corridors, the Wildlife Conservation Society is reaching out to other stakeholders particularly communities bordering protected areas. The conversation is still fraught with knowledge gaps between conservationists and people at the grassroots. To overcome this challenge, WCS has decentralised its operations so as to have a wider reach. Furthermore, the Wildlife Conservation Society develops community-based initiatives that reinforce better management of key species and habitats, and thus strengthen their survival and integrity. WCS also supports government and other non-government organisations to manage and monitor key landscapes and species nationwide.  Its advocacy work on wildlife corridors is premised on creating a win-win situation for man and nature. In view of this, Davenport reiterates the need for more openness especially on the part of the government. This, he believes, will enable conservationists and politicians to find a common ground on environmental issues.

“WCS strives to engage these key issues in its conservation work, all with a view to helping Tanzania conserve its extraordinary wildlife and environment,” Davenport concludes. “Governance is [however] key. Privatization makes sense for some areas, especially as the central government does not have adequate resources to manage the entire forest estate.”

Article written by:
Kolawole Talabi
Kolawole Talabi
Embed from Getty Images
Under the CBFM, communities living on or near forest reserves enjoy full ownership of forest estates and are directly involved in the management of forest resources.
Embed from Getty Images
Another such collaboration is the National Forest Programme, whose goal entails integrating and harmonizing the different contributions of governmental, nongovernmental, private sector, and local community stakeholders in execution of national forest policy and law.
Embed from Getty Images
The issues still include weak administration, undefined structures for stakeholder benefit-sharing, and poor enforcement of forest laws and regulations.
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