WHEN ADVOCACY IS THE BEST OPTION IN A FOREST LAND DISPUTES | WWF
WHEN ADVOCACY IS THE BEST OPTION IN A FOREST LAND DISPUTES

Posted on 25 March 2019

Juma Stambuli (34) is a MSATI Network secretary from Sautimoja Village, Tunduru District. After being trained by WWF and The Community Forest Conservation Network of Tanzania (MJUMITA) through the Sida Leading the Change (LtC) Programme, Juma has taken a lead in executing forest management, governance and advocacy. He also gain a reputation in his community for capacity building of local communities to engage meaningfully in the decision making processes regarding the management of forests under local and national authorities.
In 2018, land disputes resulting from cattle incursion reached its peak with village forest land reserves (VFLR’s) and farm lands suffering major loss. According to the local networks, the Villages witnessed a flow of over 22,700 cattle and many goats and sheep in to the village lands. For small farming villages this was a major challenge and contrary to the provisions of their already existing Village Land Use Plans (LUPs), forest management plans and respective bylaws. Soon tension began over the forest and land resource use and management.
 
“We are farmers and we do have VFLRs what happened caught us off guide. We did not have the capacity or systems to resolve the aftermath. Suddenly there were people cultivating and keeping cattles in the reserved lands. Our farms were ruined, water was scarce and even the wild animals disappeared. We were shocked when our forest patrols caught poachers with bush meat. We knew we had to act immediately! We could not afford to lose our forests after all the effort we have poured towards conserving them. Beside, our villages are thriving because we receive incentives from timber sells and in turn we invest in community development which proves to be a great motivation,” he explains.
 
Juma admits to witnessing significant changes in the area since the launch of advocacy campaigns. To him, more actions are taken to protect the VFLRs and farm land including joint patrols as compared to the past. The government authorities are now acting against livestock incursion in the village forests and other related conflicts.
 
‘’I am happy we were able to resolve our land disputes through advocacy, an approach that encouraged deliberation and accountability in all parties involved. The advocacy training done by WWF and MJUMITA gave us the skills and courage we needed to protect of village lands. When actions were taken by the authorities to reallocate cattle keepers we were relieved. The entire process was time and other resources consuming. Even the wild animals seem to be happy with the changes and are returning in a good number. Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate for adherence of the LUP’s and enactment of forest management bylaws in   VLFRs and farmlands. We also continue to apply and multiply   the knowledge we gained in forest management to make forest management sustainable,” he states
 
Though Juma says village forests will continue to face other threats in the future, he believes the Sida funded, LtC programme will create the community resilience towards managing its natural resources.
 
“A programme like this that focuses on Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA )always tends to succeed because it goes beyond trainings rather encouraging people to identify their issues and work towards possible solution. Being able to articulate our issues to influence decision and benefit from equal resources distribution has made us feel empowered. It takes a village to bring change, we are in this together’’, he noted.
 
Juma also appreciates the media’s engagement which brought more attention on the ongoing disputes hailing them as excellent advocacy tools. He is certain the media attention received helped the networks gain more internal and external support. Towards this end disputes have received frequent attention on a number of media platforms ranging from television to magazines.
 
According to LtC Programme implementing partner, MJUMITA, “The transformation that has taken place in the Sautimoja village, secures community rights in participatory forest management more firmly on the political agenda.”
 
 
 
Juma Stambuli stressing a point during a village meeting
© Diana Shuma