COMMUNITIES and conservation groups should own forests to earn from Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme.
Director of Forestry and Beekeeping Department Felician Kilahama said in Bagamoyo last weekend that currently multinationals and international conservationists are flocking the rural areas where they buy land cheaply from illiterate villagers, targeting the REDD payments and clean energy generation.
"Let's put in place a favourable policy that will protect communities from losing their land and forests to multinationals seeking to plant trees, cultivate jatropha or other biofuel crops while throwing away legitimate owners.
"Sometimes these companies cut down natural forests and plant other artificial species like jatropha while taking away our valuable land," Dr Kilahama told members of Parliamentary Land, Housing and Natural Resources and that of Finance and Economy.
In Kilwa, a Dutch energy company, BioShape Holdings BV acquired over 34,000 hectares of coastal forest in a deal which saw the company compensate villagers less than 300m/- much of which went to district authorities in 2004/5.
BioShape abandoned the project in November 2009 because of financial problems though it had made a fortune out of cutting rich hardwood used to manufacture high quality furniture sold locally and abroad in the Netherlands. In Kisarawe, British Sun Biofuels Plc acquired close to 9,000 hectares of virgin forest land at less than 250m/- in 2008.
The company destroyed natural forests and planted jatropha before abandoning the project last year. But perhaps the largest and most controversial multinational corporation holding thousands of hectares of forest land some acquired under questionable deals is Norwegian Green Resources Limited which is in Iringa, Morogoro and Lindi regions.
"We need to protect these communities so that they benefit from REDD instead of private companies and international conservation groups," Kilahama noted. Experts estimate that a hectare of forest cover stores up to one ton of carbon which if burnt produces twice or three times carbon dioxide blamed for global warming.
Under UN REDD, countries which account for less than 15 percent of carbon emissions mainly due to deforestation, will be financially rewarded for keeping forests intact. Assistant Director for Environment at Vice President's Office, Richard Muyungi said the government is mulling better regulatory regime to tame illegal activities in carbon trading.
He said keeping forests intact will soon earn communities big money as the world seeks to put an end to greenhouse gas emissions caused mainly by industrialised countries of the North. "Eighteen percent of these greenhouse gases are emitted by poor countries of the South including Tanzania," Muyungi told lawmakers who vowed to press government take drastic measures to contain global warming.
Norwegian Ambassador, Ingunn Klepsvik pledged her country's continued support to the country's efforts to put in place a REDD regulatory regime, saying support towards adopting a national REDD strategy are meant to build capacity. "We will continue working with you so that we can achieve the objective of having the national strategy," Ms Klepsvik said.
Norway has allocated 100 million US dollars to help the country prepare for a post Kyoto Protocol global carbon trading system under REDD which started in 2009. So far nine projects have been given grants totaling over 16 million US dollars (24bn/-) and recipients include University of Dar es Salaam's Institute of Resource Assessment which organized the lawmakers' meet.
Experts estimate that with over 33.5 million hectares of forest cover, the country will earn up to 300 million US dollars (450bn/-) from REDD payments annually. Only 13 million of the forests are legally protected.