What we do
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 natural forests a solution is required that will provide long term protection for these forests and a sustainable utilization of forest based resources. With limited resources from the Government, the people best able to exert some control over the forests are the rural communities who live and around them. However, the question then becomes: why should they care?
At MCDI we are addressing this question by helping rural 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 and takes time. At MCDI we are assisting communities undergo the process to establish a formal VLFR, enabling them to take ownership over their forest resources then support them for sustainable utilization of forest based resources.
Our strategy to achieve this is based on a number of key supporting building blocks:
- Meeting climate changes goals- MCDI is putting more efforts on facilitating rural communities to responsibly manage community owned forests that gives incentives and benefits to climate and natural resources. This is crucial to achieve global climate goals.
- 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.
Why certify forests
Once communities have secured rights and control over their forests, they begin identifying and engaging with income generating opportunities that provide benefits directly to the communities themselves. Getting a fair price for forest products, such as timber, is critical if communities are to reap maximum benefits from their forests. Competition from unregulated sources prevents rural 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.
Our FSC Group Certificate
We hold the first and so far the only FSC™ certificate for community-managed natural forest in Africa. Twenty communities currently participate in this scheme, with 277,193 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 natural 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 labelled as FSC on certified produce that have come from group certified forests.
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.