Forests and farming in Tanzania
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CTA. 1991. Forests and farming in Tanzania . Spore 34. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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A unique forested area survives on the Usambara mountains of north-eastern Tanzania. These forests have been isolated from the Guinea-Congo rainforests for a very long period and, as a result, 25-30% of plant species are endemic to the area. The...
A unique forested area survives on the Usambara mountains of north-eastern Tanzania. These forests have been isolated from the Guinea-Congo rainforests for a very long period and, as a result, 25-30% of plant species are endemic to the area. The forests are also home to several endemic birds, mammals and a remarkably large number of amphibians. However, many of these plant and animal species are threatened with extinction by extensive forest clearance for agriculture and timber extraction. Much of the forest was cleared in the colonial period, firstly for coffee and later for tea cultivation. Recently the tea estates have suffered from poor management and many people have abandoned work on them and have cleared forest land to practice low-grade agriculture. A particular problem has come with the growing of cardamom. The ground storey of the forest is cleared to cultivate the cardamom under the canopy. This cultivation prevents regeneration of the forest trees and when, after seven or eight years, the yields of the cardamom begin to decline, the people clear the canopy trees to plant maize, sugar cane and cassava. Large areas of forest are being destroyed in this way. Further problems have come from pit-sawers who illegally cut timber in the forests for sale, both in near-by markets and across the border in Kenya. The forest had also been the subject of industrial logging by a parastatal cooperation but this was stopped recently when it became clear that the logging was unsustainable. Since 1986 IUCN has had a project in the Usambaras funded by the EEC, which has been attempting to give more effective protection to the forest, whilst helping the local people to develop agricultural systems which will be less destructive. The project is based on a process of consultation with local communities. A locally recruited staff member is assigned to each of the thirteen villages in the East Usambaras to encourage the formation of a village development committee. Through the village coordinators the project is able to engage in a dialogue with the villagers, both to ascertain their needs and aspirations and to explain to them the long term environmental problems that will result if the forests are lost. The village committees have been encouraged to come up with their own ideas on solutions to the problem and if these ideas are felt by the project staff to be viable, support is available to help implement them. This support takes the form of the provision of agricultural tools, tree seeds and seedlings, plastic bags for tree growing, earth moving equipment to build fish ponds and fish fry to stock them, and help with transporting building materials and agricultural produce. Attempts have been made to bring the artisanal pitsawing of timber under proper control. The intention was to license villagers to pit-saw timber in forests adjacent to their village land. So far the difficulties in preventing outsiders from logging the forests have been so great that it has been found necessary to put a total ban on all timber extraction. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the forest could support a moderate yield of valuable timber, which is much in demand in local towns; this could provide an incentive to the villagers to maintain forest areas. In its first three years of operation the villagers working with the project have planted 100 kilometres of boundary strips around the forest reserves and 30 hectares or communal plantations, a total of half a million trees. Five central and 168 village tree nurseries have been established. The project has helped villagers put in contour strips on a thousand farms, over an average of 1-2 hectares per farm and 40 fish ponds have been constructed and stocked. More importantly/here have been changes in the attitudes of the farmers. They are adopting contour terracing on a wide scale and many farmers have started to plant cloves, pepper and coffee as a source of cash. The forests of the East Usamabaras are still very much under threat. The number of people in the area is simply too great for the land resources available. But working with the villagers has resulted in increased sensitivity to conservation problems, law enforcement is much better tolerated and there is now a genuine effort being made on the part of everybody, from the small farmer to the national administration, to find ways of reconciling the needs of the peoples of me Usambaras and the need to conserve its rich flora and fauna.
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