East Usambara Forest, Tanzania

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Tanzania

Sisal plantation, Usambaras Mountains, Tanzania.
© WWF-Canon / John E. NEWBY


The East Usambara Forest is part of the ancient Eastern Arc mountain chain stretching along the East African coast from southern Tanzania to southern Kenya. These isolated mountains are home to a high number of endemic animal and plant species. Prior to the 1990s, the forest was under heavy pressure by a variety of human activities, but since then numerous areas have been protected.

To continue protecting the forest and its biodiversity, WWF and its partners are involved in a number of activities, which includes community-based forest management. WWF is also assisting local villages in the East Usambara area to benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources, for example, from farming native butterflies and developing ecotourism.


The forests of the East Usambaras are among the most important for biodiversity conservation in Africa. They are also home to communities of poor people who need to use natural resources to survive.

Research on the distribution of forests in the East Usambaras indicates that if the forests become too fragmented and isolated then a number of the species only known to exist from this area will become globally extinct.

Policy and legal changes in Tanzania over the past few years mean that the framework for involving local communities in forest protection, sustainable management and restoration is now in place. Projects in Tanzania are now exploring how to use these legal changes to improve prospects both for the conservation of globally important forest resources and livelihood opportunities for people living in the same areas.

WWF is aware that the problems of rural poverty and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and that it is not possible to achieve successful long-term forest conservation without addressing and improving the livelihoods of local people at the same time. WWF believes that to address both successfully requires an integrated approach at the scale of a multifunctional landscape, which looks holistically at both people, their livelihoods, and their interaction with forests and other land uses in that landscape.


- New Village Forest Reserves (VFRs) are established and assistance is provided in the management of existing VFRs through CBFM.

- Village land use plans developed for selected villages and integrated with Muheza District strategic plans for years 2003-2005 and for 2006-2008.

- Forest habitats restored in key areas to enhance forest connectivity.

- Livelihoods improved through development of income generating and other activities that reduce pressure on natural forests.

- Awareness of the importance of forests and appropriate land management enhanced.

- Concerted efforts are made towards having systems in place to support and sustain continuation of activities initiated during the programme.


This project emphasizes developing locally appropriate solutions to conserve forests as components of a multi-functional landscape, with the aim being to find a suitable balance between protection, management and restoration activities to both conserve forests and their biodiversity and enhance the flow of the full range of forest benefits, primarily for local needs.

- Improve the connectivity between selected East Usambara forests to enhance the long term survival of globally rare and endemic species.
- Work with communities in critical forest connectivity gaps to plan the management of their village lands to include village forest reserves and enhanced tree cover to improve connections between the existing government forest reserves.
- Assist the target villages to improve their livelihoods through undertaking proven income generating activities focused on the sustainable use of natural resources. For example, farming native butterflies, developing water payments mechanisms, and developing ways to benefit from ecotourism.
- Work with the district authorities in Muheza and enhance their capacity to manage natural resources in the village lands between the government forest reserves and thereby build long term sustainability into the conservation interventions in these mountains.
- Work with the Tanga Catchment Forest Project to build on their achievements under FINNIDA with regard to enhancing forest management in the East Usambaras, in particular through utilising their accumulated skills and knowledge on ways to improve forest connectivity in these mountains.

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