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Tanzania announce new program to strengthen forest conservation

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.

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