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Sustainable Timber

Hardwood timber is among the valuable natural resources in Tanzanian natural forests. Thus, responsibly harvesting and selling hardwood timber species presents a significant potential revenue earner for the local forest-dependent rural communities, provided that: (a) sufficient stocks of large trees remain on village lands, and (b) they secure a fair price per unit of timber sold.
Rural communities which have taken control of their forests by legally setting aside Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) are in a better position to benefit from selling the timber contained within them. This is because the revenues generated by selling forest products are fully retained by the village council (i.e. none is paid in royalties to the central government). This acts as a financial incentive for local people to manage their forests responsibly.
It is not enough, however, for a village to simply have timber for sale; as with other commercial goods, local people need to identify markets with sufficient demand in order to sell their timber. This is a task that rural communities in Tanzania do not always have sufficient capacity to achieve. In the absence of buyers, communities struggle to generate real benefits from managing their natural timber resources which, in turn, can curtail local efforts to conserve forests.
At MCDI, we not only support communities to set up VLFRs under Participatory Forest Management but, once this is achieved, we help them to generate income through timber sales. We do this by:

  • Supporting villages to identify markets and buyers for their timber, including providing training on sales and marketing strategies;
  • Certifying community forests with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to drive timber sales;
  • Facilitating sales transactions by liaising with and providing technical and logistical support to forest managers (the communities), timber buyers, and other stakeholders throughout the timber harvesting process.
  • Governance & Capacity Building

    Transparent Decision Making

    Communities themselves decide how their forest resources should be managed, while MCDI supports this process by strengthening local governance and accountability.
    We support village councils to implement effective and transparent governance systems that promote community-wide engagement in decisions over how their forest resources should be managed. For example, locally preferred models for distributing revenues from forest product sales are agreed upon during community-wide meetings known as village general assemblies, and documented in village forest management plans and bylaws.
    Regular village general assembly meetings are an important governance tool in Tanzanian communities. Village councils are required by law to hold these meetings on a quarterly basis, and they should be attended by at least two thirds of voting-aged adults. This is important for democratic decision making that actively considers the needs of all local stakeholders.


    Governing Forest Revenues

    In all of our partner communities, the profits generated from sustainable timber sales in local forests are put into a fund managed by the village council for local development projects. We provide one-on-one coaching and support to local leaders in managing these communal development funds. For example, we help to guide them as they develop annual work plans and budgets to ensure that these are clearly aligned with the long term vision and goals set by each community in their village development plan.
    These work plans and budgets are then presented for approval by the wider community during village general assembly meetings. Whenever possible, we attend quarterly village general assembly meetings to help ensure that annual reports, work plans and budgets are clearly presented and that the concerns of all local stakeholders are equally considered in decision making. We place a strong emphasis on incorporating the needs of marginalised groups, such as youth, women and residents from sub-villages.
    As a result, forest revenues have been used in a variety ways that have broad-based benefits for entire communities, and that are relevant to the particular needs of the village where they have been implemented.

    What is Community Forestry?

    With numerous overlapping threats to both mpingo and its habitat a solution is required that will provide long term protection for the forests and a sustainable supply of mpingo. Where law enforcement is weak the people best able to exert some control over the forests are the people who live in and around them: the local communities. However, the question then becomes: why should they care?
    At MCDI we are addressing this question by helping communities find concrete reasons to support sustainable forest management. In particular, we are helping communities gain access, control and user rights over their forests so that they can gain economic benefits from the natural resources that surround them, incentivizing communities to promote forest conservation.
    For communities to reap the benefits from forest resources, they must first have rights and ownership over their forest. Fortunately, Tanzania has a favourable policy framework that supports community-based forest management which is known as Participatory Forest Management (PFM). Under this framework, communities are able to set aside areas as Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) managed by the Village Council and Village Natural Resource Committee, thereby clarifying local tenure over forest resources on village lands. However, the process to establish a formalized VLFR is costly, takes time and can be quite cumbersome and complicated. These challenges have therefore limited the number of established VLFRs in Tanzania, and the result is that very few communities are able to derive sufficient economic benefits that encourage them to carry out sustainable forest management practices. At MCDI we are trying to change this by assisting communities undergo the process to establish a formal VLFR, enabling them to take ownership over their forest resources.

    Our strategy to achieve this is based on a number of key supporting building blocks:

  • The high economic value of mpingo makes it an excellent flagship species for conservation.
  • Growing concerns about the dubious legality of wood entering Western markets (especially the USA and the EU) has prompted new regulations pressurising timber buyers to find demonstrably legal sources.
  • Forest certification allows the communities we support to securely label their timber as legally and sustainably felled, and from a responsibly managed forest.
  • New international voluntary carbon markets are prepared to pay forest managers to safeguard the carbon locked up in their forests under a scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
  • Why certify forests with mpingo?

    Once communities have secured rights and control over their forests, they can begin identifying and engaging with income generating opportunities that will provide benefits directly to the communities themselves. And getting a fair price for forest products, such as timber, is critical if communities are to reap maximum benefits from their forests. Illegal logging is widespread in south-eastern Tanzania (>90% of timber from the region) and competition from unregulated sources prevents communities from realising the true value of their timber.
    Forest certification allows one to securely label forest products as having been legally felled from well managed forests, and thus to differentiate them from other products from less ethically managed sources. Forest certification also includes a system to monitor the supply chain by which a log is turned into a finished product. If, and only if, every company along the supply chain holds a Chain of Custody certificate from the certificate issuing authority, then the final product can also be certified, and consumers can be confident that the product they are buying contains no uncertified wood.
    Thus in the case of mpingo used to make musical instruments we need the following organisations to hold CoC certificates from FSC in order for musicians to be able to buy FSC-certified instruments and thus rural communities in Tanzania to maximise the value of the timber in their forests.
    Village managing the forest

  • Logging company / sawmill
  • International timber dealer
  • Instrument manufacturer
  • Our FSC Group Certificate

    We hold the first and so far the only FSC™ certificate for community-managed natural forest in Africa. Thirteen communities currently participate in this scheme, with 150,485 hectares of forest certified as ethically and sustainably managed

    In March 2009 we were awarded a certificate by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)™ for the community managed forests we support in South-Eastern Tanzania. The certificate awarded is a group certificate, meaning that the actual forests are managed by group members - in this case rural communities - and the certificate manager (MCDI) manages the relationship with the certificate issuer, FSC

    The group certificate design is efficient, as the costs of certification are spread between all members. Furthermore new members can be added without requiring a separate inspection by FSC-accredited auditors so long as MCDI follows the rules it has agreed with FSC for adding new members. Our certificate code is SA-FM/COC-002151, which can be found on all unprocessed certified produce that have come from group certified forests. (Sawn wood products can only be labelled as FSC if the sawmill has a Chain of Custody certificate from FSC, in which case the products will be marked with the sawmill's certificate code.)

    Group Certificate Members

    The table below lists all current members of our FSC group certificate, and the documents available on each member. All group members are rural communities whose first language is Swahili, hence all these documents are written in Swahili. MCDI is happy to provide translations where required. However, non-Swahili speakers interested in specifics may find it useful first to check the relevant templates found under the Certificate Administration section.

    MN Village FI Forest Name Area (ha) Date Joined
    1 Kikole A Namajongoo 916 Sept 2009
    2 Kisangi A Mwembendawile 1,900 Oct 2009
    3 Nainokwe A Kijawa A 8,502 Nov 2010
    Nainokwe B Kijawa B 1,629 Dec 2016
    4 Liwiti A Namatuli 9,306 Nov 2010
    5 Nyamwage A Nyamkongo 1,644 Dec 2010
    6 Tawi A Tawi 3,003 Dec 2010
    7 Nanjirinji A A Mbumbila A 57,641 Sept 2012
    Nanjirinji A B Mbumbila B 18,987 Dec 2016
    8 Likawage A Long'ou 31,005 Nov 2013
    9 Ngea A Likonde 3,330 Dec 2014
    10 Mindu A Liwina 3,713 Nov 2018
    11 Mchakama A Uchungwa 5,639 Dec 2014
    12 Sautimoja A Chihuruka 21,966 Dec 2015
    13 Machemba A Chiumbe 4,612 Dec 2015
    14 Namatewa A Magongo 6,656 Jul 2017
    Namatewa B Mbarale 3,359 Jul 2017
    15 Ngapa A Mgalugalu 16,855 Aug 2019
    TOTAL 200,713