Participatory Forest Management in Tanzania
Participatory Forest Management (PFM) is a strategy to achieve sustainable forest management by encouraging the management or co-management of forest and woodland resources by the communities living closest to the resources. It is one of the many forms of the more general Community-Based Natural Resources Management which has dominated conservation thinking in Africa for the last twenty years.
The Tanzanian Government defines PFM as:
“The arrangements for management that are negotiated by multiple stakeholders and are based on set of rights and privileges recognized by the government and widely accepted by resource users; and the process for sharing power among stakeholders to make decisions and exercise control over resource use.”
PFM is characterised by forest-adjacent communities sharing power as well as benefits, and assuming owner/user rights and management of the resources. PFM can contribute to a broader rural development strategy which aims to improve rural livelihoods and reduce poverty whilst at the same time protecting the environment and promoting gender-equality.
A critically important feature of PFM in Tanzania as set out in the Forest Act of 2004 is that once a community have completed the process of setting aside a new Village Land Forest Reserve complete with an approved management plan, the community becomes exempt from paying the regular royalties due on listed timber species. In effect this means that the community can charge loggers the same amount as they would otherwise pay to the government (assuming they were logging legally), and retain those fees for themselves. Successful implementation of this in communities supported by MCDI has seen the income derived from each log leap 400 times compared to what villages received before MCDI started working with them.