Community benefits more from selling confiscated sawn timber compared to round logs

Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) has played a pivotal role in supporting rural Tanzanian communities to own and economically benefit from forests. We do this by facilitating sustainable, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified timber production, and have supported five communities to generate over $200,000 from timber sales in just five years. This communal income – which is spent on village development projects – provides local people with concrete incentives to manage forests sustainably.

Despite better forest management, illegal logging by people from outside the villages we support can still be a challenge. In MCDI-supported communities, the Village Natural Resources Committees (VNRCs) patrol the forest at least twice per month to hammer down on these activities, confiscating illegally cut wood and fining the offenders. The village is then able to sell the confiscated wood onto a suitable buyer. However, as buyers often come with their own set of specifications, suitable ones can take time to come by.

MCDI are working with communities to tackle this challenge. In September, we advised the VNRC in Ngea – one of 11 communities that are certified under MCDI’s FSC Group Certificate – to process 30 confiscated logs into sawn timber to fetch more money. We provided them with a loan to cut the logs using pit saws. The planks were then sold via auction, generating more profits – and incentives to fight against illegal activities in the forest – than they would have made from selling raw logs alone.

Ngea was not only able to pay the loan back to MCDI in full, but they are using the profits to build a teachers’ house. The village already has a school building, but the last teacher that was posted in Ngea left because of the poor living conditions. By building good quality accommodation next to the school, Ngea is increasing the chances that the next teacher will want to stay in the village; local children will be able to go to school to get an education.

Ngea is the first community that MCDI has supported to sell sawn timber in this way. We are now working to support more communities to move up the value chain by selling sawn timber in addition to raw logs. By our calculations, this should almost double the profits – and benefits – they can generate from trees in the forest. Stay tuned as we post more updates.