Sound and Fair’s roots lie in a series of Cambridge University-linked research expeditions, starting in 1996, which assessed the conservation status of African blackwood, mpingo in Swahili, in Tanzania.

These surveys continued until 2003 when the project officially became the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI), a name which emphasised the value of African blackwood to forest communities and the role it could play, if correctly managed, in alleviating poverty.

Tanzanian FSC certified coastal forest

By 2004, MCDI was registered as a Tanzanian NGO with its first field office in Kilwa, Lindi District, and, over the next five years, developed its capacity as a practical conservation organisation with the aim of safeguarding Tanzania’s remaining natural forest through community-based forestry management.

The fruits of this work began materialising from 2009, when MCDI obtained the first FSC certificate for community-managed natural forest in Africa and, for the first time, forest-dependent people in Tanzania were able to harvest their own wood, sell it with an FSC label and retain 100% of revenue.

FSC African blackwood log (1)

Sound and Fair began its work in 2009 as a campaign to promote the Chain of Custody (CoC) for FSC® 100% African blackwood from community-managed forests in Tanzania and, by 2011, had helped secure orders from ten musical instrument manufacturers, including Hanson Clarinets and CF Martin, both of whom were FSC-certified.

Marigaux FSC oboe

Sound and Fair Limited was incorporated in the UK and Tanzania in February 2012 as a social enterprise committed to the fair and ethical trade of timber from community-managed forests. Commercial trials were conducted through 2012-13 which resulted in wholesale volumes of blackwood being successfully exported to various musical instrument and other product clients in the UK, EU and USA.

FSC African blackwood billets

Having secured investment in 2016, Sound and Fair began the development of a log processing and timber production facility in partnership with Nanjirinji village, close to the primary FSC certified forests.

Semi-processed FSC African blackwood

Construction was completed in 2018 and Sound and Fair now has the capacity to produce wholesale volumes of timber for local and international markets.