Transforming the Tanzanian Forest Sector

September 13, 2016

Posted By Anni Blåsten

Finland is supporting Tanzania through the Private Forestry Programme, which has an ambitious goal of ultimately transforming the entire forestry sector and improving the lives of tens of thousands of people in the process. Indufor’s team is closely working with tree growers and wood processors to professionalize the plantation forestry value chain. This blog gives us the experience of Hanne Vaarala, PFP Capacity Building and Communication Advisor.

Driving down the road from Njombe Town to Ngalanga village one cannot but admire the beauty of the landscape. While appreciating the graceful mosaic of these rolling hills of green and blue, so typical for the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, I keep in mind the harsh reality that many locals face in this poor region and country. Many long-term development partners, including the Finnish government, have been working for a long time to help to change the situation. Being part of the change through the Private Forestry Programme I feel my work has a meaning and a purpose. Our team aims to help to raise people of here out of poverty by providing them with tangible, long-term, sustainable assets through private small holder plantations.

Private Forestry Programme (PFP) – or as it’s known in Swahili, Panda Miti Kibiashara – operates in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, and is currently the biggest Finnish funded development aid programme in Tanzania. The country has been one of Finland’s key development partners for decades and results begin to show, slowly but steadily. One specific area where Finland has been supporting Tanzania is forestry, due to the solid income-generating possibilities it provides to the rural population. Furthermore, Tanzania still has vast areas of available land which can be used for tree growing without compromising biodiversity or causing conflicts with other land uses.

Landscape on the way to Ngalanga

Enthusiastic Tree Growers Planting for Future Generations

On a PFP regular monitoring visit in Ngalanga village in Njombe district I am greeted first by one of our most active beneficiaries, Mr. Reginald Danda, who also serves as the chairman of the local tree growers’ association. This inspirational leader has an impressive tree plantation in his name, established with quality seedlings and technical support provided by PFP. Mr. Danda is so excited by the prospects of tree planting and with the possibilities it gives to his people that he has bought seedlings from local nursery for the Ngalanga village school and teaches children forestry in his spare time - a natural role for a retired school teacher. He expects Ngalanga village to be a very different place for future generations:

“Generally in 15 years to come, I see Ngalanga growing economically as of now Ngalanga is about to plant more than 1,000 acres in 2016-2017, this is a lot of money in terms of cash. Ngalanga will become a modern village with this expected income. The target of [Tanzanian] Government - to transform individual income from lower income level to medium income level - will be attained in Ngalanga. The only task we are left with is to educate people of Ngalanga to equip them on how to plan, spend and invest the money well that they will earn from trees”, he says.

It’s been several months since I last visited the village, and the plantations have grown notably. Unlike in Finland, where the rotation period for pine is 80-110 years depending on the region, here in Tanzania pines mature within 20 to 25 years. For the other major tree species planted in the programme, eucalyptus, rotation is even faster, 8 to 9 years for electricity poles and 15 years for sawn timber. The favourable climate and fertile soil, complemented with sufficient rainfall, ensure good growth conditions for trees.

Mr. Danda in his plantation. Trees in this picture were planted in January 2015.

Altering Mind Sets, Traditions and Practices

There are great opportunities in Tanzania for people to raise themselves and their families out of poverty with the help of forestry, just like the Finns did in the turn of the 20th century. In the fast-growing Tanzanian economy, demand for construction timber is enormous. Neither in Finland nor in Tanzania development has happened without problems. Despite the fact that approximately one third of Tanzania is still forested, forest loss is rife, and area equal to 570,000 football pitches of forest is lost annually. Plantation forestry may have a negative sound in many ears but actually in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania tree growing initiatives give added environmental benefits through reduced pressure on natural forests and by reducing the risk of erosion in this area prone for very heavy rains during rainy season. PFP is fighting the forest loss in Tanzania, not only with tree planting activities, but also by introducing less wasteful methods to the country’s wood processing industry. The target of the programme team is to introduce technology to local sawmilling businesses that will raise the recovery rate from current 27 per cent to 40 per cent and over. When successful, this change alone will reduce the need of harvesting by tens of thousands of hectares every year.

But no work is without challenges, and in development work the challenges are plenty and many times pressing. Often seemingly small things can prove to be the greatest barriers to development efforts. For example, in PFP one of the greatest challenges in the field work has proven to be transferring proper plantation management techniques to the members of the Tree Growers Associations. Local belief is that weeds protect the seedlings by providing support and shade against the harsh sunshine. This leads to reluctance to do proper weeding. The misconception is being tackled with awareness-raising, including visits to demo plots where the tree growers can see with their own eyes the differences between weeded and non-weeded plots. With thousands of beneficiaries to reach with our message, the work takes time. PFP has successfully promoted registration of plantations under family name instead of the old practice to have the title under husband’s name only, and some one third of the supported tree planters are women. So even though changing attitudes may take time we know and see that the ground is receptive and enthusiasm high because farmers have understood the potential of plantation forestry as a mean to lever them out of poverty and build a better future for their children.

Text by Hanne Vaarala, PFP Capacity Building and Communication Advisor

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Anni Blåsten

Marketing Manager, Senior Consultant

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