Our History

Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative was founded in 1995, originally under the name of the Cambridge Mpingo Project, and began with the Tanzanian Mpingo 96 student expedition. Between 1996 and 2003 the project organised six student research expeditions to Tanzania, involving 56 students from eight different universities, during which time we changed our name to the Mpingo Conservation Project (MCP).

The project was transformed when in 2004 we won the top prize in the BP Conservation Awards Programme. This allowed the project to set up a permanent field base in Kilwa District, Lindi region-Tanzania, and to complement its ongoing research programme with practical, community-based conservation.

In 2010 we changed our name again, this time to the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI for short) to better reflect what we do, and to convey the long-term horizons under which we operate.

Timing Milestone
Dec 2004 Registered as NGO
Jul 2006 First village forest reserve in Kilwa District declared with our support
Mar 2009 Awarded first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate for community-managed natural forests in Africa
Sep 2009 In partnership with Kilwa District Council, facilitated the first ever commercial timber harvest from a village forest reserve in Tanzania, earning communities 100 times more per log than previously
Jan 2010 Launched our pilot REDD project to diversify community forest revenues, funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy
Dec 2011 Sales of other hardwood timbers overtake those of Mpingo
Sep 2012 FSC-certified area of forest quadruples with addition of more than 60,000 hectares in Nanjirinji A village forest reserve
Apr 2013 First business models for timber and carbon offset sales developed
Jul 2013 Rural communities cover the costs of forest management from forest revenues
Oct 2013 Our first significant expansion begins in Angai Forest, Liwale District, funded by the Government of Finland under the Lindi and Mtwara Agribusiness Support (LIMAS) programme
Dec 2013 Cumulative timber sales pass USD $100,000 (TZS 180 million).
Jan 2014 Submitted proposal to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for approval of a method to quantify greenhouse gas emissions averted through improved fire management
Mar 2014 First community started to cover forest management costs from timber revenues
Sept 2014 Expanded to Tunduru District, funded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Tanzania Country Office, and now support community forestry in four forest-rich districts of south-eastern Tanzania. Entered into a long- term partnership with WWF.
Apr 2014 Our beneficiary communities earned more than USD $100,000 (TZS 180 million) from timber sales in 2013-14 alone
May 2015 New community-based fire management method approved by VCS for use in Eastern Miombo Woodlands that stretch some 2.8 million km? of East and Southern Africa
Mar 2016 Our CEO won two prestigious international awards in two months: Whitley Award for Nature and National Geographic Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation

Our Aims

We were founded in the belief that mpingo and other hardwood trees offer a unique opportunity for integrated conservation and rural development across large areas of their native habitat in Tanzania and Mozambique. Our aim is to use these trees as an economic tool to advance conservation of miombo woodlands and East African coastal forests. We now support communities to market and sell more than 15 hardwood timbers in local, national and international markets. The income from timber is used by communities to facilitate rural development and livelihood improvement. This enables them to become more self-sufficient, and provides local beneficiaries with concrete incentives to protect their forests as economically valuable assets. Community Forest Conservation also contributes to government confer from taxes generated through timber trade.

MCDI Governing Board

All our work is overseen by our Governing Board which has the following members.

S/N Name / Position Affiliation
1 Mr. John Salehe (Chairperson) Nature Tanzania
2 Ms. Gema Aliti Retired Programme Associate, UNDP
3 Mr. Alphonce Muro (Treasurer) Ministry of Finance
4 Mr. Rawson Yonazi Retired Cabinet Under-secretary responsible for Environment (State House) and Assistant Director - Vice President's Office (Environment Division)
5 Mr. Raymond Wawa Lawyer & Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania
6 Dr. Alex Lobora Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute
7 Mr. Makala Jasper (Board Secretary) MCDI Chief Executive Officer

Combining REDD, PFM and FSC

Certification in South-Eastern Tanzania

MCDI was selected to implement one of nine REDD pilot projects (2010 – 2014) funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania. As with all of our work, this REDD project sought to advance forest conservation in Tanzania by generating sustainable income for communities, thus providing incentives for them to manage local forests responsibly. It is designed complement sustainable, Forest Stewardship Council-certified timber production under our group certificate, and thus help to ensure the viability of community forestry as a sustainable enterprise in Tanzania. Where sufficient surplus income can be generated from REDD, this will be used to support expansion of the area of forest under community control.

The project aims to deliver six principle outputs:

  • Combined group certificate, validation and verification scheme covering timber and carbon-based products open to widest possible variety of community-managed forests in Tanzania.
  • Mechanisms to sell carbon offsets and credits for expansion of group certificate and/or forest recovery, and compatible with developing national REDD standards.
  • Efficient, scientifically robust and cost-effective methods for participatory assessment and monitoring of carbon stored in forests.
  • Drivers of deforestation controlled and reduced.
  • Best practice established for equitable management and sharing of economic benefits from forest conservation across the entire community.
  • Achievements disseminated with policy recommendations for national and international audiences.


Our partners in this project are:
  • University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences;
  • University of East Anglia, International Development group;
  • Carbon Tanzania;
  • University College London, Dept of Geography;
  • Maliasili Initiatives;
  • Value for Nature;
  • MCDIs long term partners Fauna & Flora International.

Our Team

BSc in Forestry; MBA in Leadership and Sustainability. I have been working for MCDI ever since it was established in 2004. I am passionate about our cause, because of the tangible changes we bring to the lives of poor people. Our strategy of bringing about development through forest conservation is very important and it makes us unique. When I am not working I enjoy travelling, because you can learn a lot from exploring news things in life.

Diploma in Forestry. I have been working for MCDI since its inception in 2004, and still enjoy it every day! This might be because I love 'the bush life' and staying outdoors, which I can do a lot during my visits to the communities where we work. My favorite moments are evenings staying around a camp fire, hearing stories from different groups of people. My favourite animals are African hunting dogs.

MSc in Management of Natural Resources and Sustainable Agriculture. I started working for MCDI in 2010. My favorite parts of the job are working with my fantastic colleagues, who all are equally committed to the work we are doing. I also enjoy visiting the villages where we work; sometimes it takes time for local people to grasp the processes involved in managing their forests, but the feeling when they really understand and are grateful is very rewarding

MSc in GIS and Natural Resources Management I've been working with MCDI since 2010, before which I worked for WWF-Tanzania as a voluntary Technical Field Assistant. This job is an adventure to me because I love nature and interacting with different people. It's also so rewarding to be able to actually see the benefits nature can provide when communities act to manage it responsibly - it truly changes lives. In my spare time I like travelling to experience new ideas and cultures.

BSc in Infomation Communication Technology. I have been interested in IT ever since I was young and studied computing at university. I have been working for MCDI since 2015, where I enjoy being able to help my colleagues with their (many!) computer crises, and get motivated when I see villagers excited about our support. When I am not working I love to relax and to chat with friends

Advanced Diploma in Accounting. Throughout my career I have been working in finance departments of several organizations. I started working for MCDI in 2012, and enjoy learning about the importance of conserving community forests - the work is very rewarding because of all of the positive changes we have helped bring about

Bachelor of Arts with Education (Geography). I've been employed by MCDI since 2013, and enjoy working with nature and forests; seeing the benefits they bring to local people's livelihoods. In my spare time I enjoy listening to music as a way to refresh and clear my mind.

BSc in Wildlife Management. I started working for MCDI since March, 2018. I really enjoy working at MCDI because we work as a team to ensure we succeed on conserving biodiversity.

Diploma in Forest. I have been working for MCDI since November,2018. Team working and collaboration is what I'm enjoying the most at MCDI.

BSc in Forestry. I joined MCDI in September of 2016, and enjoy working with rural communities to ensure conservation of their forests for future generations.

BSc in Rural Development. I've been working for MCDI since January, 2018. I do enjoy team working with rural communities to ensure sustainable forest conservation for the future.

I have been working for MCDI since 2009, and have a background in cooking and cleaning. In my spare time, I enjoy dancing to traditional music.

B.A in Geography and Environmental Studies. I have joined MCDI since October 2017. I love working in conservation areas since nature is life and life is nature. Being close to the communities that practice forestry is what makes my career.

I've been with MCDI since 2013. As a driver, I enjoy it when we expand to new villages, so that I can travel to new places and see the forests they have there. I am a mechanic and chainsaw operator by trade

BSc in Cultural Anthropology and Tourism. I worked as a part time tutor at the National College of Tourism before starting at MCDI in 2013. I like how supportive the management team at MCDI is, and in general the good working atmosphere and cooperation between staff. At the weekends, I like to go dancing and to watch movies

BEd in Geography and History, before joining MCDI in 2017 I was teaching geography in a secondary school. I love working here as part of the team and I am grateful to work with rural communities, seeing villagers use their forests in a sustainable manner. I enjoy working in the bush as a field officer as I like the natural air, animals and birds. Outside of work I enjoy watching movies and playing games.

BSc in Agricultural Education and Extension; Postgraduate Diploma in Education. I began working for MCDI in 2010 after working as a Government Environmental Education Officer in the Ministry of Education. I decided to make the move to fulfil my dreams to work with rural communities in conserving the beauty of Tanzania's natural environment. I enjoy my work because it exposes me to an array of different people, and I am able to learn from their different ways of living; being in the field gives me a sense of freedom. In my spare time, I like gardening and listening to the birds.

I have been working with MCDI since 2017 and enjoy working here as part of the team. Previously, I studied at the National Institute of Transportation (NIT) and worked with Kilwa District Council as a driver. I enjoy watching football, especially Manchester United and Young Africans Sports Club.

Diploma in Community Development. I began working for MCDI after receiving my Diploma. I am passionate about this line of work because I like to serve communities by helping them to participate in forest conservation. Besides that, the organisation is very supportive to its staff and my colleagues are great.

Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative

Our Partners and Supporters

A big thank-you to all our funders and supporters over the years. On the budgets at which we operate every single contribution makes a big difference. You are too numerous to list exhaustively, but we would like to particularly acknowledge some of our biggest and most loyal partners and supporters below.

Forest and Value Chain Development Programme (FORVAC) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. MCDI is collaborating with FORVAC in six districts in Lindi and Ruvuma regions.

We are partnered with the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. They have specialist knowledge on determination of carbon stocks within Miombo woodlands and the effect of fire. These technical skills makes them a critical partner on our REDD pilot project.

The Tanzania Natural Resources Forum (TNRF) is a collective civil society-based initiative to improve natural resource management and conservation in Tanzania by addressing fundamental issues of governance. MCDI is a leading member of TNRF's Forestry Working Group, and a partner in the Mama Misitu Campaign to improve forest governance in Tanzania.

The very first expedition in 1996 that started MCDI won a prize in what was then known as the BP Conservation Awards programme and is now known simply as the Conservation Leadership Programme. The 1998 and 2000 expeditions were short-listed for follow-up awards. Then in 2004 the project was awarded one of the top consolidation awards ($75,000), allowing us to start practical conservation activities.

We entered into a long term partnership with United States Forest Service in 2015. A group of technical experts have since visited us on various missions to leverage their resources and expertise in GIS to bolster our mapping and monitoring needs. This has played a transformative role in enabling us to accurately map patches of critically endangered coastal forests in the communities where we work, and to improve our community-based wildlife monitoring programme in these areas.

Rainforest Projects is an initiative of Beautiful Cups, a Dutch company which is supporting the protection and restoration (rain)forests in several projects all over the world. We are building a brighter future for the forests, its wildlife and its people. Beautiful Cups is raising additional funds for the work of Mpingo through their network of customers and partners.

We work closely with the Tanzania Country Office of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-TCO). WWF-TCO support conservation activities across Tanzania, and have a major interest in conserving forest as a whole and East African Coastal Forests in particular, fragments of which are found in most MCDI's operational area. As well as supporting MCDI financially, WWF-TCO have utilised their technical expertise in support of MCDI's work

We have partnered with the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia in the UK. They are helping us to monitor changes in household wealth and wellbeing as a result of our work in the communities, and also changes in the quality of governance within communities, which is critical to how they manage revenue derived from their forests.

The value of MCDI's work to conserve these important habitats was recognised internationally when, singled out among more than 130 applicants, our CEO was presented an award for International Nature Conservation by the Whitley Fund for Nature. The award was donated by WWF-UK. Click here for our video, or read more about how we have used the money to expand our reach and impact by connecting forests, people and wildlife here.

Comic Relief is a British charity, supported by prominent British comedians, whose vision is a "a just world free from poverty". In 2008, MCDI, through its UK partner, Environment Africa Trust, received a grant of £282,000 over three years from Comic Relief under the title "Fair Trade for African Blackwood". This had been presaged by a smaller Project Development Grant in 2007 under which we explored various aspects of the blackwood trade in the UK, and developed some of the key elements of the proposal for the main grant. In 2011 EAT, MCDI and Kilimanyika received a further one year grant (£240,000) to continue this work and to review some key issues around the trade and marketing of certified blackwood and the governance of the different elements of the project.

The Darwin Initiative seeks to help safeguard the world's biodiversity by drawing on UK expertise to work with local partners in countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources. The fund is supported by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra). The Darwin Initiative awarded a partnership between Fauna & Flora International and the MCDI (then known as the Mpingo Conservation Project) a grant of over £140,000 to cover core costs of MCDI's activities in Kilwa district between May 2005 and March 2008. In 2017-2020 Darwin Initiative supported MCDI for the second time

The Environment Africa Trust (EAT) is our main UK partner. Its mission is to support organisations working in Sub-Saharan Africa that encourage sound environmental management and biodiversity conservation through a strong community economic development focus to achieve sustainable livelihoods. EAT have spearheaded our drive to get funding for our FSC group certificate scheme.

MCDI has established an excellent working relationship with the District Council and its officials in Kilwa. The council plays a critical role in MCDI's work as the Full Council must approve all bylaws proposed by villages to govern the use of their Village Land Forest Reserves, whilst the management plan for each community-managed forest must be approved by the District Forestry Officer. MCDI's cooperation with KDC, however, extends far beyond that: work plans are shared, our staff work closely alongside each other, and new initiatives are launched only after full consultation.

Mtama District Council

MCDI has an MoU with LDC to promote sustainable forest management in Mtama district.

Other districts

MCDI also collaborate with all District Authorities where it operates (Ruangwa, Liwale, Nachingwea, Tunduru, Namtumbo, Songea and Monduli).

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) are one of our key partners, and were the lead partner on our Darwin Award. In addition they have helped us with several grants over the years:
In 2006, through FFI's Communities, Livelihoods & Governance Programme we received a portion of a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Entitled Resources for Improved Livelihoods, the grant enabled FFI and its partners such as MCDI to reflect on how and why we are addressing human needs, to monitor achievements and to develop best practice in combining poverty reduction with conservation.
In 2008, FFI provided critical bridging funds to MCDI between the end of the Darwin grant and the start of the Comic Relief grant.
Then alongside the Comic Relief grant FFI channelled additional funding from Anglo American, again focusing on the balance between conservation and community needs..

We have an organisational development partner, Maliasili Initiatives, with which we work closely to grow our internal capacity as a leading conservation and development organisation in Tanzania. With Maliasili Initiative's support, we developed our first, comprehensive five-year strategy in 2015. This serves to guide our organisation towards achieving its vision. In 2016 we began to clearly link this strategy to our annual budgeting and work planning, which helps to guide us in deciding which new projects to prioritise in order to scale up the level and quality of support we are providing to Tanzanian communities in sustainably managing their forests.