Government supports communities to 'hammer' down on illegal logging

Tanzania’s forest policy allows room for local peoples’ involvement in forest conservation. By establishing Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) through a formal programme called Participatory Forest Management, local people can legally own, sustainably harvest and retain 100% of the revenues from selling forest products. Five communities supported by the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) in south-eastern Tanzania have earned more than USD $200,000 through this programme in just five years, 2009-2014. This regular income from sustainable timber sales is providing local people with economic incentives to manage forests responsibly, including protecting them from illegal practices.

An additional national safeguard against illegal logging in Tanzania is the use of hammers to mark felled logs. These hammers have a code which is stamped into each log, sawn timber, and stump; the mark is unique to other marks and indicates the forest products have been legally harvested. It also allows authorities to track the movement of logs in the country. Logs cannot be legally transported without the stamp.

Although effective at combating illegal timber trade, previous delays in issuing hammers for use in VLFRs have been a key constraint on communities benefiting from their natural timber resources. In an extreme case, two communities which MCDI supports in Rufiji District, Tawi and Nyamwage, have been unable to harvest timber from their VLFRs for about ten years since they were established, because they have been waiting for District hammers to be released.

MCDI has raised this issue in various forums and dialogues with government representatives over the years, advocating on behalf of communities to get hammers released so that local people can start benefiting from their forests. Until this month, however, these efforts have seen little avail.

Our CEO raised the issue during the Decision Makers Forest Academy – a meeting which brought together high level decision makers, opinion leaders, politicians and other key forestry stakeholders – which was held from 15-16 July 2015. Less than one week later, on 22th July 2015, District Forestry Officers from six Districts – Rufiji, Tunduru, Kilwa, Liwale, Ruangwa, and Nachingwea – where MCDI operates in Lindi, Pwani and Ruvuma Regions collected hammers for use in VLFRs from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

“Thanks to the Finnish Government for supporting the event and for Uongozi Institute and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the organisers of the Decision Makers Forest Academy, for organizing such a successful event which resulted in these quick outcomes” – Makala Jasper, MCDI CEO

This is a huge achievement and MCDI are working to support Tawi and Nyamwage villages in Rufiji District to begin harvesting as soon as possible. With annual quotas of over 280 cubic meters of valuable hardwood, they have the potential to collectively earn more than USD $35,000 per year from sustainable timber sales.