The fruits of collaboration between communities, local government and not-for-profits to restore Tanzania’s forests
At MCDI, not only do we work to conserve and protect the world’s forests by empowering rural communities in Tanzania to set up and sustainably manage village forest reserves. We take this a step further by showing local people how to restore areas where these forests have been previously cleared or degraded. It is this aspect of our work that caught the attention of Beautiful Cups, which is supporting our tree planting programme through monthly donations.
In September/October this year, the generous support from Beautiful Cups enabled us to raise over 38,500 native tree seedlings for planting in village land forest reserves. These seedlings, which we raised in collaboration with one of the 22 rural communities that we are working to support, comprised three indigenous Miombo and Coastal Forest species:
1. Mnungunungu (Erythrina Schliebenii) is a Critically Endangered fern which was thought extinct prior to being rediscovered in Mchakama’s local forests in 2010. We are working with the community to bring this tree back from the brink of Extinction.
2. Mkangazi (Khaya anthotheca) is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN having been long exploited for its hardwood timber which is prized for furniture and joinery in Tanzania and East Africa more widely. We aim to restore populations of the species in local forests so that one day communities can benefit from sustainable trade in the timber.
3. Mkongo (Afzelia quanzensis) is another local hardwood with high demand in local markets. We support rural villages to sustainably manage the species, harvesting the timber at a rate that can be naturally replenished by the forest. Our sustainable harvesting model serves to ensure that the numbers of trees in local forests remains stable. However, this tree was likely considerably more populous in local woodlands historically, and so we are taking it upon ourselves to plant surplus seedlings in local woodlands to work towards restoring these previous levels.
Sowing Erythrina seeds in Mchakama’s village tree nursery
We combine planting of native forest hardwoods with fruits and other trees of commercial value. This creates additional incentives for rural people to support tree planting efforts by improving local nutrition, access to food and by providing an additional source of income to supplement local economies. This month, we supported local people in Mchakama village to raise 9,140 Teak (Tectona grandis) seedlings for growing in village woodlots. Teak, originally from Asia, has become a highly valued commercial hardwood in Tanzania, where it is used both domestically and exported for furniture and joinery.
In addition to Teak, we helped local people to source seeds for, plant and raise 2,560 fruit trees including 1,600 Papaya, 200 Oranges (Citrus sinensis) and 760 Avocado trees (Persie americana). While Teak and native hardwoods that grow in local forests take time, sometimes up to 50 to 100 years to grow to the point where they are commercially valuable, these fruit trees provide a more immediate tangible benefit for local people. In combining these two strategies, we provide a powerful example of how sustainable management of natural forest and food security (often considered at odds with each other) can go hand-in-hand.
Tending to a mix of indigenous hardwoods, fruit trees and commercially valuable Teak in the nursery
In addition to our work in rural Tanzanian communities, we manage our own tree nursery in the small coastal town of Kilwa, on the Indian Ocean, where our headquarters is based. So far this year we have raised 3,410 seedlings of 6 different tree species. We expect to raise twice this amount as we enter the short rains of November/December. Once the seedlings are large enough, we will plant take them to one of the villages with which we work to plant in previously degraded areas in their village forest reserve.
Another quality that sets us apart at MCDI is our strong positive relationship with the government in Tanzania. We pride ourselves in our ability to leverage our skills and resources to support initiatives by District Authorities and other organisations that serve to advance our goals. In September/October this year, we were asked by Kilwa District Authority to help maintain their tree nursery. In doing so, we supported the Government to raise a further 9,400 seedlings of 8 native tree species to be planted in degraded areas within National Forest Reserves.