The Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK
Half of Tanzania’s forests occur on village lands that are home to some of the country’s poorest rural communities. Historically, land rights were unclear and people had no incentive to care for forests and the wildlife within them. The Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI), directed by Makala Jasper, is empowering communities to change this through sustainable management of forests and the sale of mpingo. Also known as African blackwood, this high value timber is often used for the manufacture of musical instruments.
WORLD HERITAGE SITES
Namatewa village is part of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Biodiversity Hotspot, a mosaic of high conservation value forest. It is situated between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Africa, and Kilwa Kisiwani, the 13th century cradle of trade in the Indian Ocean. The Kilwa coastal forests also support an Important Bird Area. Linking this fragmented habitat will support seasonal movements of large mammals such as elephants and lions.
FOREST STEWARDSHIP CERTIFICATION
Since 2006, MCDI has facilitated protection of over 3,000 km² of forest in southeastern Tanzania through participatory forest management. In 2009, it became the first organisation in Africa to be awarded Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) status and remains the continent’s only certified programme for community managed natural forests. The 35 communities involved have seen the price per log increase 100-fold, boosting local income. At the same time, monitoring of key bird species indicates that populations are increasing.
With his Award, Makala will:
- Bring over 5,000 km² of unique coastal forest under community protection at the request of villagers.
- Strengthen local ownership and empower sustainable forest management through FSC certification of forest products, benefiting over 2,500 rural Tanzanians.
- Undertake regular monitoring of birds, mammals and other key wildlife to assess project impact on biodiversity.
Why it matters:
- Tanzania is losing 1% or 4,800 km² of its forests annually.
- Coastal forests harbour exceptionally high levels of endemic plants and 633 bird species.
- Makala’s project offers people earning less than US$1 per day a means to conserve their forest whilst increasing their income.
“Not only do coastal forests serve as a haven for wildlife, but they also represent a lifeline for millions of poor Tanzanians.”