Posted on 21 April 2020
Ali Kujotika (28 ) is a Governance Evaluator from Ngapa village in Tunduru District Council .He is among the 4 members of the Village Governance Evaluation Team on Participatory Forest Management chosen by his Village Assembly. Demonstrating good leadership and conservation skill Ali was endorsed by his village to participate in Forest Governance organized by Community Forest Conservation network of Tanzania (MJUMITA) through Leading the Change (LtC) program. Following the training Ali was responsible for undertaking regular governance monitoring activities in his village.
In 2019, Ngapa Village witnessed escalating illegal forest harvesting in areas bordering VLFR due to limited management causing pressure to the Village Land Forest Reserve (VLFR). In June 2019, Ngapa VLFR was raided by forest culprits who harvested logs violating the village forest harvesting and management plan.
Having a committed and accountable Village Natural Resource Committee (VNRC) patrol team in the village identified a volume of 28m³ logs illegally harvested in the VLFR worth 7 million as evaluated by a Forest Officer. Whilst the VNRC’s makes an effort to confiscate the logs but the forestry businessman who was a suspect in the raid fled away with logs during the night through Nachingwea boarder.
“As evaluators on Good Governance in cooperation with the VNRC and village government we were not ready to see our protected forest that we have vigorously managed destroyed and by few people, who want to make quick money” said Kujota.
After the incidence Ali and his team with support from Leading the Change programme, conducted advocacy meeting on illegal harvesting with Tunduru District Commissioner (DC). The meeting was fruitful, the team was supported to open a criminal case in Tunduru Police (TUND/IR/1514/2019) under supervision of Tunduru DC. Investigation was conducted and the case made its way to the court house.
“On 28th January 2020 justice was done and our village received our claim of 7,280,000/= Tsh. We are happy now to see the fruits of advocacy as a tool of demanding community forest justice by witnessing action taken by Tunduru DC in collaboration with District Forest Offices and Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) by ensuring our village gets its right. Actions speak loudly than words. Through our case the authority has pointed out that no illegal exploitation of village forest resources will be tolerated”, point out Ali.
The Evaluator acknowledges Tunduru DC for his technical backstopping and guidance. Admitting the funds will be used in community development projects including finalizing construction of village office and forest management. Thus, benefiting 896 households with a population of 843 male and 1177 women to improve village development
Despite winning Ali noted that the process requires time and commitment. He believed that knowledge and skills gained through Leading the Change Programme played a big role in their success and cemented community of solidarity towards management of forest resources.
“Our victory is also a result of capacity building efforts done by the programme through MJUMITA. We were persistent because we had the right skills set to navigate the case and demand our rights. Having us, Governance Evaluators, in place allowed us to support our community by providing back stopping and monitor progress on forest governance. We also serve as bridge between the community and various stakeholders including government authorities and institution to solve various challenges the villages faced and come out with a solution thereby building closer working relationships”, he emphasized.
Speaking on his aspiration Ali says he want to see Ngapa village become a Community Based Forest Managent (CBFM) model Village in Tunduru DC. And use of advocacy as a strategy to address issues related to natural resources management.
Through leading the change Programme, MJUMITA advocate to secure community rights in participatory forest management in 23 CBFM villages and 5 Local Networks from Kilwa, Tunduru and Namtumbo Districts Councils in Ruvuma landscape.