COMMUNITIES BENEFIT FROM FOREST CONSERVATION
The project, 'Extending the Coastal Forest Sub-system', was coordinated by WWF Tanzania Country Office after having been commissioned by the government in 2010. While it was concluded last year, communities in the project area have continued to benefit in various ways, having participated effectively from its planning and implementation.
The beneficiaries include Nyamwage, Nanjilinji, Kiranjeranje, Mchakana, Mandawa and Nakiu villages.
“With assistance from WWF, we have not only learned to conserve forests but we also operate community conservation banks (COCOBA) which have enabled me to pay school fees and buy uniforms for my children,” Hawa Shaban, a mother of four and a resident of Nanjilinji A in Kilwa District told reporters when they visited the district recently.
With proceeds from other income generating activities like beekeeping, villagers have been able to improve their houses by replacing grass-thatched roofs with corrugated iron sheets.
Giving details about the project, WWF Forest Programme Coordinator Isaac Malugu said that the project funded by UNDP/GEF, covered three districts of Rufiji, Kilwa and Lindi, with the objective of supporting conservation of coastal forest biodiversity and ecosystems and provide sustainable benefit to local communities, the country and the world in general.
“Today we see a marked improvement in the well-being of villagers particularly women and the youth who have participated in income generating activities. Besides being active members of COCOBA, they also take part in beekeeping as an alternative source of income, “he explained.
“For us the major achievement is that we have observed a significant change of attitude towards positive forest conservation, an indication of sustainability of the project,” he added.
According to Malugu, due to the change of mindset shown by the communities and the proven sustainability of the project, some COCOBA groups have transitioned to community based organisations (CBOs) with some of them being registered with the National Business Registration and Licensing Authority (BRELA).
“The groups are now accessing loans from financial institutions even almost a year after winding off project activities. Two groups in Nyamwage village have been given loans amounting to 14m/- from the Tanzania Presidential Trust Fund,” he said.
On his part, Nyamwage Village Chairperson Said Nasoro was delighted with progress the village had made in conserving forests and engaging in various income generating activities.
“Most of the youth are no longer involved in the illegal harvesting of the village forests as they can earn some money from other activities' he said.
The environment committee has been relieved of the burden of patrolling the forest to chase away illegal loggers and groups of youth that were involved in making charcoal and with new opportunities for earning incomes becoming available, our forests are flourishing because there is little pressure from villagers,” he said.
A project report published in January 2015 notes that commitment by communities to engage in alternative sources of livelihoods other than harvesting forest products is enormous. “This is a clear indication that people in the coastal forests of Tanzania are now shifting from forest dependency towards alternative sources of livelihoods.
With significant reduction of poverty, the goal of sustainable development will be attained by these communities in the long run,” reads part of the report.