Governance, carbon management and land-use in Tanzania
1. "Drivers [of deforestation in Tanzania] involve a complex interaction of proximate causes, including local human activities, such as agricultural expansion, charcoal burning and salt mining, that directly impact forest cover, as well as underlying forces related to social and economic processes."
True. Our pilot REDD project is centred around mitigating carbon emissions caused by human-induced forest fires. Among the main culprits for igniting these fires are hunters, including subsistence hunters as well as more commercial operators. They do this to clear long grass for better visibility but also to promote the growth of new shoots which attract game animals for feeding (proximate cause). It is illegal to light fires in Tanzania's forests, though hunting blocks often overlap with forest areas and enforcement is low and under-resourced (underlying force number one). Conflicts of interest arise when you consider that commercial hunting brings income to various actors, including private companies and local government authorities (underlying force number two). So, who wants to turn a blind eye to keep the customer happy today, lest they not return tomorrow?
2. "In general, revenues appear to be insufficient to invest in forest management and conservation."
Hardwood trees are the most valuable forest resources in southern Tanzania and offer a potentially lucrative source of income for communities. However, these communities often lack adequate start-up capital, equipment and skills to process and sell their hardwood timber on a commercial scale. As such, the majority of communities are still reliant on external financial support from the government and non-governmental organizations to help them maintain their forests.
For example, Likawage village in southern Tanzania set up its 31,000 hectare forest reserve with our support in 2013. In 2016, the community generated TZS 42.6M ($19,500) from selling hardwood trees on a sustainable basis to local buyers. As per Likawage's forest management plan, half of this income was earmarked for local development projects, while the remaining TZS 21.3M ($9,750) was fed back into managing the forest. However, Likawage's forest management committee has been struggling to make ends meet with their portion of timber revenues. They need money to fund fortnightly forest patrols, periodical assessments of local timber stocks, re-painting forest boundaries, forest certification and fire management, and other important activities which come to around TZS 28.3M ($12,500) annually. We have been subsidising them with grants raised through various donors to cover these costs. This puts Tanzania's natural forests and the rural communities on which they depend (and vice versa) at risk if organisations like MCDI are unable to continue to raise sufficient funds to provide financial backstopping to support community-based forest management. We are working to turn this situation around by piloting sawn timber production in our partner communities in the second half of 2017, using a commercial mobile sawmill.
3. "In some cases, projects led to border conflicts with neighbouring villages."
On this, we have plenty of experience. Unclear land tenure and consequent disagreements between villages over the locations of their shared boundaries is a recurring challenge that we encounter while supporting community-based forest management in southern Tanzania. Rationally, communities often prefer to reserve areas of forest that far away from their homes and farms so that they have room to expand and develop. However, an unfortunate consequence of adding value to local natural resources is that suddenly everybody wants a piece of the pie, and these remote village forest reserves that are tucked away at the boundaries between communities are at greater risk of being claimed by others. This is one reason why boundary disagreements flare up.
We are working closely with local government authorities, communities and other stakeholders to devise mutually beneficial solutions to these administrative challenges.
4." Community perceptions were strongly affected by distrust generated by past experiences, particularly the history of fortress conservation and land grabbing, thus requiring even greater efforts in building trust."
This sings true to some of our experiences engaging with rural villages in Kilwa and Tunduru Districts. In Kilwa, a number of dubious land investments by bio-fuel companies have left rural villages sceptical about the true intentions of outsiders coming to offer development aid. This made it initially more difficult to secure the trust of both communities and local government authorities when we were setting up in Kilwa back in 2004. Later, it contributed to the challenges we encountered when trying to develop contractual arrangements with communities too early on under our pilot REDD project (read more about the challenges and lessons learned through our REDD project). Thirteen years down the line, however, we have managed to built reputable relationships with both communities and the local government authority in all Districts where we operate, built on trust after delivering on all the promises we have made. We now have communities approaching us for support to set aside local forests for sustainable management.
5. "Increasing village rights to and control over local forests improves local participation in meaningful ways, through land tenure security."
Agreed, and this is highlighted in a recent paper based on research in two of our partner communities - Mchakama and Mandawa - which (at the time of the research) had set up village forest reserves on their land but not started generating revenues from these forests through sawn timber. The report revealed that these village forest reserves had a positive impact on human well-being and persistence in spite of the lack of benefit. Local people expressed a high level of support for community-based forest management as a result of greater control of their forest (and an ability to exclude outsiders), regular access to forest products, and pride in recognition for their conservation efforts (by other villages and the state). Both of the communities involved in the research have gone on to sell sustainable timber, earning more than TZS 27.9 million ($12,700) to date.
6. "Financial capabilities of local authorities need to be anchored in self-sustaining sources of funding and state accountability structures rather than transient projects."
Local Government Authorities play an important role in supporting community-based forest management in Tanzania. They must approve all management plans and bylaws proposed by communities to govern the use of their natural forests, and a District Forest Officer must be called out to mark logs felled in village forest reserves before they can be legally transported. Furthermore, under the Tanzanian Local Government Act, villages are entitled to financial audits with the District Treasurer’s department. However, Local Government Authorities have long been under-resourced meaning that they are limited in their capacity to provide all of the extension services required of them by villages. This is why we advise communities to voluntarily contribute 5% of their timber revenues to the District Council to help fund their services. From 2017 onwards we will be advising villages that have started earning more than TZS 10 million annually from timber sales to include a budget to fund their own audit assessment by a District Accountant. Further to this, we are working with the District Council in Kilwa to support them to gazette their own Local Government Authority forest reserve. Once up and running, this will not only contribute towards forest conservation in the area but also provide a sustained supply of revenues from timber which the District can reinvest to fund its work. These are a couple of examples of how we are working to anchor the financial capabilities of local authorities in self-sustaining sources of funding.