Creating connections - forests, wildlife and Tanzanian communities

Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial wildlife. We're working with rural Tanzanian communities to protect these important wildlife habitats.

Map 1. In 2015, we supported 5 communities in Kilwa to expand their locally protected forests, increasing connectivity so wildlife can travel freely from one forest block to the next.

Map 2. In all, last year we helped communities to increase the area of forest under local protection in SE Tanzania by over 50%, to over 285,000 hectares, and we're already planning more expansion for 2016-17.

The community forests where we work in south-eastern Tanzania comprise a patchwork of miombo woodlands –  “arguably the most important wildlife preserve in the world” – interspersed with smaller pockets of coastal forests, a biodiversity hotspot of global importance. By showing communities how to generate income from these habitats through sustainable timber harvesting, we provide them with concrete incentives to protect forests, together with the unique wildlife contained within them.

Buffalo, warthog, elephant, hunting dog and lion are among the species of game found in south-east Tanzania. These large mammals require expansive areas of intact forest to roam; their survival is at risk as suitable forest habitats are increasingly cleared and fragmented. Fragmentation also makes community forests more accessible to illegal loggers, and so it is in the interest of both wildlife and local people to ensure that large, contiguous areas of well protected forests are maintained. This is why we are working with Tanzanian communities and local government authorities to expand the area of forest under local stewardship, strengthening connectivity between these locally protected forests and National Forest Reserves to allow wildlife to travel freely from one forest block to the next.

Once we have partnered with a community, where possible we also team up with their neighbour to set up locally protected forests that either adjoin one another and/or are flanked by National Forest Reserves. Just last year, we supported local people in Nanjirinji A to set aside a second 19,000 hectare forest patch which links their existing communal forest reserve to one in the adjacent village of Likawage. At the same time, we helped beneficiaries in Likawage Village to expand their community forest further along the boundary of an adjacent National Forest Reserve. The combined area of these contiguous forest blocks now exceeds 117,000 hectares almost five-times the range size of a pride of lions (see Map 1 to the left).

This year, we are seeking funds to support a small farming community called Namatewa to engage in sustainable forest management. If we are successful, this will represent a significant step towards closing the gap of previously unprotected forests which connect the Selous Game Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s largest protected areas) with existing MCDI-supported forest communities and National Forest Reserves in south-eastern Tanzania (see Map 2). Moreover, one of two nationally recognised elephant corridors that link the Selous Ecosystem to the coast through Kilwa District runs directly past Namatewa village, and so this could make a valuable contribution towards the conservation of these charismatic animals.

Together, we’re working with our community partners and local government authorities to integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, and poverty reduction strategies by 2020.

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