ONE of the country's largest natural forest reserve, Masito-Ugalla in Kigoma rural district which is threatened by charcoal and timber traders exporting to neighbouring countries, is not legally protected and now Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is seeking to gazette it.
The 70,000 hectares natural reserve which spans across Kigoma and Rukwa regions is one of the several others which are not protected by law hence allowing loggers and corrupt forestry officials to cut down natural trees, causing degradation. "I have told Jane Goodall Institute to sensitize communities on the importance of protecting this huge natural forest which is very important to our country in addressing climate change," Director of Forestry and Beekeeping at Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Felician Kilahama said in Bagamoyo during a seminar on climate change for lawmakers. Dr Kilahama said of the 33.5 million hectares of forests cover in the country,
18 million hectares have no legal protection while 13 million hectares are legally protected and the rest are wildlife conservation areas. "I know that Jane Goodall are doing something about it and in my capacity I support their efforts," he told Daily News in the sidelines of the seminar which involved lawmakers from Parliamentary Committees on Land, Housing and Natural Resources and that of Finance and Economic Affairs.
JGI has been mobilizing communities in Kigoma Rural district for the past three years under Reduced Emission for Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) to protect Masito-Ugalla forest which scientists claims comprises rich biodiversity and is instrumental in controlling global warming. Scientists argue that forest degradation accounts for up to one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions that causes temperatures to rise.
"In the past 30 to 50 years there has a 0.8 degrees centigrade temperature increase globally due to human activity
including deforestation," said Richard Muyungi, assistance Director of Environment at Vice President's Office. Mr Muyungi said under United Nations REDD initiative, communities will be paid for conserving forests to enable them meet daily needs such as energy and timber while contributing towards stabilizing global temperatures.
"If we continue cutting down trees at the current rate and rich countries continue pollution through industrial production, there are fears that global temperatures may increase by two degrees centigrade within the next century," the former Clean Development Mechanism of Kyoto Protocol board member, warned. Norwegian Ambassador, Ingum Klepsvik whose country is bankrolling the country's REDD strategy and legal framework establishment and nine pilot projects, said Oslo is pleased with progress being made on the ground.
"We are quite impressed with what is going on here and many countries were impressed with Tanzania when we were in Cancun on progress that you have made towards the REDD initiative," Ms Klepsvik said while assuring lawmakers that Norway will continue supporting the country's efforts towards conservation. JGI REDD Project Director, Edwin Nssoko recently told Daily News that communities bordering Masito- Ugalla forests have been mobilized to support conservation.
Under the JGI REDD Project, over 30 forest monitors have been trained in wildlife conservation and patrol the massive forest to check against illegal loggers. Last month, forest monitors from one of the seven villages under the project, Songambele, arrested over 700 planks of timber which were enrooted to be shipped to out of the region to urban markets or exported to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo or Rwanda which are across Lake Tanganyika where lucrative prices are paid.
"We regularly conduct joint patrols with district forestry and natural resources officials to check against timber processors and charcoal makers who are threatening existence of this forest reserve," said Mr Nssoko. JGI which received a grant of 2.7 million US dollars (approx. 4.05bn/-) from Norwegian government to fund the Masito-Ugalla REDD project. Under the project, JGI has also trained forest monitors in handling global positioning system (GPS) equipment, android use in image taking and sending to servers while training on carbon content measurement in trees is going on.
"We want them to be able to know exactly how much carbon is stored in each tree so that when REDD payments are made they understand exactly how much their villages should get," said Nssoko. Seven villages under the pilot project in Kigoma rural include, Ilagala, Kirando, Sunuka, Karago, Lyabusende and Sigunga.