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Tanzania aims to strengthen conservation of protected forests

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzania on Tuesday announced a new program aimed at transforming some of its key forests into being highly protected to save the east African nation from turning into desert.

The move is aimed at strengthening conservation of forests that are are overwhelmed with wantonly tree felling for timber and fuel wood.

Faustin Kamuzora, Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary in the Vice President Office (VPO) said that under the proposed program, Morogoro-based Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) has been mandated to identify those forests that would fall under that category before presenting its recommendations to the VPO.

The official described the pace at which tree felling is taking as “a very serious concern.”

“Our forests are overwhelmed with wantonly tree felling. It is better we take actions now by identifying forests that are mainly for serious conservation,” stressed Kamuzora.

He said that the fifth-phase government is determined to become one of the middle-income nations by 2025 through industrialization. “And we’ll only realize that dream if we manage well our environment, particularly forests. So, it’s important to tame deforestation now,” he said.

Gerald Monela, SUA vice-chancellor said their mission is to replenish degraded natural vegetation in Morogoro and the country at large.

He added: “This will also give opportunities for ordinary people to take part in the campaign by directly planting trees in their localities.”

Tanzania is home to one of the largest tree covers in the world, but it’s at risk. A forest inventory by the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) in 2015 found that forests and wooded areas cover over 48 million hectares of land, more than the entire state of California. It also found that wood remains the main source of fuel for Tanzanians, even in urban areas.

Trees are felled for firewood or turned into charcoal. With a steady population growth rate over 3 percent, community forests designated to supply wood for fuel are unable to support the growing demand. That daily necessity is causing some serious problems, according to experts.

“Biomass energy provides 92 percent of energy needs, which is causing an unsustainable use of forest resources,” said Florian Mkeya, manager of natural forests at the TFS, who worked on the report.

The current deforestation rate in Tanzania is approaching 373,000 hectares per year, making it among the highest in East Africa.


New report highlights timber trade challenges in eastern, southern Africa

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- A new report released on Thursday highlighted challenges facing timber trading nations in eastern and southern Africa, in particular the need for improving trade monitoring, financial integrity and addressing issues related to politics and corruption.

The report, jointly authored by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was launched as representatives from across the region met in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to discuss implementation of the Zanzibar Declaration on illegal trade in timber and other forest products.

The Declaration was signed in 2015 as part of an initiative to address rampant illegal timber trade in eastern and southern Africa under the umbrella of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Eastern African Community (EAC).

Key among the recommendations from the new report are calls for full government participation in forest-related multilateral agreements, such as those under SADC and EAC, to address issues undermining legal timber production.

The report urged SADC and EAC Secretariats to collaborate to capture information from government forestry, revenue collection, customs, and ports authorities and make the data publicly available.

"Collection of appropriate and adequate data is an essential pre-requisite for management of timber resources, and maintaining these in an open and transparent manner is a sound basis for ensuring timber trade is carried out legally and sustainably," said Julie Thomson, TRAFFIC Head of Office in East Africa.

The report said the trade in natural forest timber was worth tens of millions of dollars in the last decade and is increasing, with domestic consumption, although poorly monitored, estimated to be more than ten times the volumes exported internationally.

It said the majority of timber imports to the region comprise coniferous sawn timber and eucalyptus electricity poles.

Most of the countries also import processed forest products, mostly paper, plywood and fibreboard, furniture, doors, fittings and joinery, with South Africa, Kenya, China, and India dominating the market, said the report.

However, the report noted that despite existing policies, laws and international protocols, most forestry departments in the region do not have adequate capacity to routinely monitor the industry.

"This week, governments have a golden opportunity to ensure the right measures are put in place and widely adopted to control timber trade flows within and from the region," said Geofrey Mwanjela, Eastern Africa Forest Coordinator for WWF.

"It’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure a fair, equitable and sustainable timber trade becomes the norm in eastern and southern Africa," added Mwanjela.


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