History of Forest Policy & Management in Tanzania

The first National Forest Policy of Tanzania was established in 1953 and reviewed in 1963. The aim of this policy was to conserve the forests in perpetuity for the present and future generations. However, the policy placed all the powers with foresters and ignored the people. This was not inappropriate at that time as the population was small and pressure on forests was minimal.

Over the years pressure on forest resources has increased as a they are called upon to meet demands for fuelwood, fodder, building poles, timber, agricultural lands etc. This is partially attributable simply to an expanding population, but also widespread poverty and low level of education hinder adoption of new, alternative technologies.

In response to the social, economic, environmental, cultural and political changes taking place in the society and nation at large, the Government of Tanzania formulated a new national forest policy in 1998. It provides room for people’s involvement in conservation, e.g. policy statement 39:

Local communities will be encouraged to participate in forest activities. Clearly defined forest land and tree tenure rights will be instituted for local communities, including both men and women.

Enabling legislation for the new policy was passed with the new Forest Act of 2002.

Efforts to involve the people in forest conservation in Tanzania date back to the early 1990s. They were mainly donor funded and at the time were not explicitly supported by existing policy or legislation. Following success in various pilot areas and policy changes within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, a new national level programme of Participatory Forest Management (PFM) has been established.

PFM is a broad, all-encompassing term used to refer to the various types of local involvement in forest management. At one extreme, under the provisions of the Village Land Act (1999), Tanzanian communities can define and demarcate an area of (formerly unreserved) village land as a Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). This is one of six forest tenure categories recognised under the Forest Act (2002). Once designated, the community take full ownership and management responsibility for the area of forest encompassed within the VLFR. The process for establishing a VLFR is detailed here.

Tanzania is one of the leading countries in Africa implementing PFM-style practices. Since 1995 more than five hundred VLFRs have been declared by communities out of communal lands. In addition, several thousand households, clans or other community groups in Shinyanga Region have demarcated private forests (called Ngitili). Together these developments have brought more than half a million hectares under community protection.

In Tanzania, PFM implementation is split into two categories:-

Joint Forest Management (JFM) is applicable where there is a pre-existing local or central government forest reserve. In this instance the forest adjacent communities enter into a Joint Management Agreement with the appropriate reservation authority to share management responsibility and benefits accruing.

Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) is used to refer to cases where there is no pre-existing forest reserve which must be taken into account. Here communities simply decide to reserve a part of their village lands as a Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). Upon provision of an acceptable Village Forest Management Plan (VFMP) control and ownership of all the forest resources therein is devolved to the village government. Consequently, communities gain the right to harvest and sell timber and forest products, as well as to undertake patrols (including arresting and fining offenders). They become exempted from government taxes on the forest products, including major timber species (or “reserved tree” species), and therefore can claim in royalties revenue that previously would have gone to the government.

At MCDI we are principally concerned with developing CBFM initiatives under which communities can receive the lions share of lucrative licence fees for felling timber, without being burdened by additional negotiations with forest reserve authorities.