Relying on forest for livelihoods


Last week I introduced you to Flamingo Land’s conservation project in Tanzania, the Udzungwa Forest Project, and some of the issues that tropical forests are facing worldwide. This week, I’ll be covering some of the ways in which we’re trying to address these issues!

UFP has 10 major objectives in trying to protect Magombera Forest in the Eastern Arc Mountains, which can be broadly divided into four categories: ecological monitoring, community education, capacity building and lobbying. The main emphasis is on scientific research, with field staff working daily in the forest to measure various indicators which allow us to determine the health of the forest. These include things like how many young trees are growing, the number of monkeys seen and even how many dung beetles can be found on elephant poo! Collecting all of these together lets us build up a bigger picture and calculate whether the forest is in the process of recovering, or whether it is still being lost.

UFP also works closely with the local villages surrounding the forest, surveying them twice a year to determine how they’re doing financially, the level of education present and how much of their income comes from forest products. This gives us a good idea of how much they rely on the forest for their livelihoods. The biggest current threat to the forest is the cutting of small trees for poles (used as building material) and firewood, so we plant sustainable, fast-growing tree nurseries in the villages and help villagers to find alternative sources of fuel. Our sustainability officer travels round the villages, teaching communities how to build fuel-efficient stoves that use less firewood, and how to produce fuel briquettes from farming waste such as rice husks. Our education work is not limited to adults, however, and so our education officer Christina visits local primary schools weekly to teach children about the value of the environment and how to protect it. We strongly believe that everyone has the potential to learn, and so we aim to cover as many age groups and generations as possible with our education and training work!

The final area that UFP works in is in lobbying the government to protect the forest. Currently, Magombera Forest receives no legal protection from the government, and so it is very difficult to target those who encroach into the forest and damage it. Corruption is also widespread, which often makes prosecution difficult even when the law has been broken! Nevertheless, the project has seen a number of successes over the seven years in which it has been in operation, and I’ll be talking about some of those next week!