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Tanzania - UK - Tanzanian NGO changes lives with outstanding approach to sustainable forestry
Jasper Makala, Director of the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) in southern Tanzania, has been shortlisted for a prestigious Whitley Award for his work to bring rural communities together to manage their forests sustainably.

Soil Association Certification’s forestry team has worked with Jasper Makala and MCDI since 2007. By certifying schemes like the MCDI’s Participatory Forest Management scheme, Soil Association Certification has been pushing the agenda to provide more opportunities for smaller communities to take the reins on managing their own forests.

Community Responsibly Harvesting Mpingo

The Whitley Awards will be presented on 27 April 2016 at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The awards offer ongoing support to outstanding nature conservationists in the developing world. Jasper Makala is one of seven finalists for the award, which will be presented by HRH The Princess Royal.

Deforestation has seen millions of hectares of Tanzania’s virgin forests disappear over the past thirty years, largely due to illegal ‘slash and burn’ logging practices, which have become commonplace across the country. Valuable hardwood timber, such as the precious mpingo tree, is especially sought after for its use in musical instruments like clarinets, oboes and bagpipes.

The MCDI’s work is centered in the Kilwa district of the Lindi region, which is home to some of the last remaining stocks of mpingo hardwoods. Through their Participatory Forest Management scheme, the MCDI puts control of local forests back in the hands of rural communities, who are given full legal ownership of Village Land Forests Reserves.

To combat illegal logging, sustainable forestry is enshrined in Tanzanian law. Communities can reclaim full ownership of their traditional community land, if they can prove that they will maintain and manage the land sustainably. However, due to costs and lack of technical capacity, this is an unattainable dream for many communities.

This is where MCDI comes in. The initiative facilitates community ownership by supervising management of a number of community forests, and assisting in the legal process involved in securing and transferring full ownership of the land back to the community. Certified to FSC standards by Soil Association Certification, it is the first initiative in Africa that operates in this way, putting ownership of 140,000 hectares of forest back in the hands of the Kilwa, Tunduru and Rufiji district’s communities.

MCDI’s role has been revolutionary for the thousands of people involved. Each community forest is managed by a committee of up to 50 villagers, which employs members of their own community to become trained and skilled timber workers and providing employment opportunities for locals. The committee decides which projects to take on, how to manage them, and what to do with the profits from the timber sold, which go into a common pot. This approach has seen one village using their shared income to build a clinic for a doctor in order to have direct and immediate access to medical care. Other villages have used funds to build schools to provide education to children, or extend their education. Above all, the MCDI’s work has given communities a great deal of knowledge about sustainable forestry and left them with a strong sense of pride for the forests and drive to protect them.

Kevin Jones, Head of Forestry at Soil Association Certification, said: “Jasper Makala and the MCDI have accomplished a remarkable task of growing the sustainable forestry industry while putting control of common resources back in the hands of communities. The dedication and knowledge of the people involved is incredible, and we in the UK could take a lesson from the teamwork required to decide how to protect our natural resources. This is exactly the sort of thing we want to see more of in the future in our work with the Forest Stewardship Council.”

Soil Association Certification is committed to developing access to FSC certification for smallholders and community forests and has worked closely with the FSC Regional Offices in Africa over the past few years to achieve this objective.

Source:Soil Association .

Apr 2016


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