Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Kilwa District

The forests and woodlands in Kilwa District are under a real threat of deforestation and degradation. The main threats come from population increase, improved accessibility to the district and it's forests, and the stimulation of socio-economic development. Forest degradation in the district is widespread, caused mostly by shifting agriculture, logging and fires. For many years the district has been isolated due to poor infrastructure and inaccessibility, but recent efforts to open up the district and make it more accessible have resulted in an influx of exploitation of natural resources. The over exploitation of natural resources trend is shifting southward from Dar es Salaam as Kilwa district becomes increasingly accessible through road improvements and infrastructure development.

The main drivers of deforestation in Kilwa District are fire, agriculture and livestock keeping, the timber trade and illegal logging, charcoal production and trade, and land use changes.

Illegal Logging

Illegal logging is a serious problem across the tropics, and the tropical timber industry as a whole has a poor reputation for corruption and environmental destruction. In the public's mind this is often associated with clear felling of pristine tropical rain forest. However, a lot of illegal logging is highly selective, targeting only the most valuable trees such as mahogany, and can equally well take place in dry forests, such as the Miombo woodlands in Tanzania and Mozambique. In fact, due to the more open nature of these forests, access roads are less work to construct and selective logging is easier.

Mpingo is one of the highly prized timbers in these forests along with paurosa, African mahogany, mninga and mvule. These trees can be easily felled inside the forest without greatly affecting surrounding vegetation, but doing so devalues the forest. If this logging is not done sustainably then over time the forest loses much of its standing value, and will eventually be felled for charcoal, or cleared for agriculture. Hence, if this is not halted, in the long run, unsustainable logging can be as bad for the forest as clear felling. In order to guard against this scenario forest authorities around the world typically produce management plans which detail how individual forest blocks will be managed sustainably, although many developing countries, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, lack the resources to complete this exercise properly. Forest authorities also tax logging operations through charging royalties or concession fees, and will seek to do so even where a formal management plan does not exist. Unethical logging companies desiring to minimise their costs will therefore try to avoid paying these taxes. If the royalties have not been paid, then any management plan will not have been followed, and no attempt to ensure sustainability made. Illegal logging is thus the worst form of unsustainable forestry, and it is no coincidence that international organisations around the world trying to achieve sustainable forest management focus first on achieving legal logging, e.g. the EU's FLEGT programme.

In recent years, illegal logging has become front page news in Tanzania, with a series of scandals. In one instance, of over 100 containers containing timber which were siezed at the port of Dar es Salaam, not one contained within it what was described on the official manifest. Export of unsawn logs is banned in Tanzania except for teak (which is grown in plantations), and yet many such cases have been uncovered. A lot of timber is first taken to Zanzibar (this does not count as an export), but Zanzibar's own regulations are a lot less strict allowing timber to be then re-exported from there with minimum hassle from the authorities. Many different tactics are adopted by illegal loggers; some never buy a logging permit in the first place, others re-use the same permit many times over; often loggers will buy a cheap permit for less valuable species, but use it to cover highly prized timbers. In all cases bribes and kick-backs will be paid to government officials who agree to look the other way.

All these issues, and the governance failures that lie behind them, were documented in a ground-breaking report by TRAFFIC. In total TRAFFIC found that an estimated 96% of timber extracted from south-eastern Tanzania in 2004-5 was illegally logged, and that the country had lost around US $58m in revenue as a result.

Logging and timber trade in Kilwa District

MCDI research has revealed that there are two distinct groups of people involved in the logging and timber trade in Kilwa District; loggers and retailers. Others involved are the intermediaries and transporters. The majority of loggers reside in the villages and are members of the local communities. The majority retailers are people from outside the villages, conducting individual businesses or represent large companies dealing with timber trade.

The general process for logging in Kilwa District is that a single business pays 10 – 20 loggers (or more depending on how many pieces required) and provides saws and advance payment through an intermediary. The loggers prepare the logs or timber using saw pits, which is the most commonly used method to cut the timber, and when the timbers/logs are ready the businessman through the intermediary arranges for transport and shipment of the timber/logs from the forest or collection point.

Loggers are not engaged in logging throughout the year; the logging season starts after the rainy season and when the main farming activities are completed. 90% of the timber collected by businesses is transported by road or shipped from Kilwa Kivinje port to markets outside Kilwa District; the major markets are Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha and Mafia. The remaining timber is sold to retailers in Kilwa Masoko. In order to make a profit, timber traders state they have to collect and ship over 2000 pieces of timber per shipment.

Timber used within the villages is obtained by contacting the local loggers residing in the village. The loggers can get an individual order of about 50 pieces of timber per year from the village, but if contracted by an outside business they can make up to 1500 pieces per season.

People involved in logging state that the condition of the forests in Kilwa District is changing fast and that it is increasingly difficult to find the desirable timber species of desirable size. Furthermore, tree species described as valuable are disappearing faster.

Many studies by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), TRAFFIC and the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) have been undertaken to understand the status of logging and timber trade in southern Tanzania including Kilwa District and several good recommendations have been made. Timber trade remains a reclusive and profitable business benefitting a few individuals and companies.

Kilwa District is among the highest collector of revenue from timber in Tanzania, however, only a small part of this revenue goes back to the villages. Thus, village communities do not see the benefits of having and protecting their forests and instead they engage in and allow illegal logging.

Establishing PFM is one powerful process that can enable the communities living around these forests to benefit from their local natural resources and stimulate them to conserve and manage their forests.

Charcoal production and trade

Evidence of the charcoal trade is abundant and visible throughout Tanzania, Kilwa District is no exception, and the presence of charcoal makers is felt in any forest. Charcoal bags for sale line roads in the district and close to towns. Clearly, charcoal production contributes to deforestation, however the process is difficult to quantify. Charcoal has the potential to be the most commercialised resource in the district as road improvements meaning that the district becomes more easily accessible. The profit from charcoal is attributed to very low capital inputs, free/own labour, free raw materials, low levels of concern about the environment and the high demand for charcoal. Policy intervention by the central government is necessary, together with strong monitoring by village/local governments is critical, and establishing alternative sources of wood for charcoal is viable.

Charcoal making and trading in the villages in Kilwa District is a relatively recent development as an income generating activity. The concept of charcoal production for profit is less than 10 years old and most involved produce less than 100 bags per year. Trees for making charcoal area readily available and it is not a problem to get them. Market access is easy for villages located along roads, they sell their charcoal within the village and along the roads to customers from outside the village. In villages located further inland the charcoal market comprises teachers and nurses working in the village but originaiting from outside, who prefer using charcoal over firewood.    

Charcoal kilns are traditional and are made near or next to the trees felled or near a cleared farm plot. There is a preference for certain tree species to be used to make charcoal.  A tiny proportion of charcoal makers use trees felled from land cleared for agriculture. Kiln size varies from one charcoal maker to another; with kiln size depending on the size of trees felled and the available labour. Kiln sizes range from a kiln that can produce 20 bags, to 50 bags, with a 50 bag kiln being the largest. The preferred bag sizes are kiroba (15kg) sold within the villages and gunia/lumbesa (35-50 kg) sold along the road to outsiders or dealers from Ikwiriri in the neighbouring district to the north of Kilwa District and other nearby towns.  

Contrastingly, fuel wood is the main source of energy used by villagers for cooking and other uses. Woodfuel is mainly collected from dead and fallen trees and dead branches in the nearby forests around the village. Changes in forests have not affected the availability of fuel wood and it is not perceived by the villagers as problem now or in the near future. There is plenty of fuel wood and within easy reach.