About 90km east of Kilwa Masoko, the region capital of Kilwa District in Lindi Region, sits a small village called Nainokwe. The isolated village of 540 residents and 117 households boasts 8,000 hectares of forest reserve which is gifted with all kinds of trees and different animals like antelopes, elephants, leopards and buffaloes, among others.
To Nainokwe villagers, Kijawa Forest Reserve means life. In recognition of this fact, different measures have been put in place to make sure the forest reserve is conserved to the point that it is used to generate income and becomes an inheritance for future generations.
Millions of Tanzanian shillings (TZS) are collected every year from forest harvests where 50 per cent goes to the village office, 45 per cent to the Natural Resources Committee with the remaining five per cent handed over to the District Council.
For Nainokwe Village, the 50 per cent share that it gets has made a visible difference to the area that has made everyone concerned proud. The ownership of the forest by the community is felt by every villager, thus the obligation to conserve it.
In 2011, over TZS13 million was received. From the revenues and those from the preceding years, the village has managed to construct classrooms at the village’s primary school, a house for the Village Executive Officer and the village office. Twenty-two elders aged above 60 and the disabled have also been signed up for health insurance.
There are also times when the village buys food for school children, a move that has improved class attendance. Generally, the use of the money is determined by the village assembly after an analysis of various needs.
A team from the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) who recently paid a visit to the village were full of praise to the residents over how they have managed to put mechanisms for the management of the forest.
“This is a clear example of how forests can benefit the surrounding communities. Other villages with this kind of forest should learn from Nainokwe,” says Deodatus Mfugale, a senior journalist and former chairman of JET.
Abdallah Said Kigomba, the acting village chairman, said: “For us, this forest is everything, and so mismanaging it is equal to self-suicide. It is obvious that we have to protect it.”
He said there used to be a problem of untimely bush fires mostly started by small farmers and charcoal burners. However, through by-laws and patrols carried out by members of the village’s Natural Resources Committee the problem has been controlled.
Abdallah Hussein Mpuru, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, said: “The 45 per cent share we get from the revenues collected from forest harvests is used for buying bicycles that help us in carrying out patrols. The money is also used for buying stationeries, ensuring cleanliness around the forest border to avoid bush fires, buying uniforms for and paying allowances to those who carry out security patrols.”
While other villages in Kilwa District like Kole, Nambondo, Liwiti and Likawage have had to endure a difficult time to resolve border rows between one another, the story is different in Nainokwe. However, behind these successes, there is an organisation that plays a big part in helping the village realise the benefits of being surrounded by a forest reserve.
The Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI), is an organisation which aims to collaborate with villages to conserve endangered forests. It promotes sustainable and socially equitable harvesting of the in-demand mpingo and other valuable timber stocks. It has been instrumental in ensuring the village not only conserves the forests but also sees the benefit of doing so.
Local resident, George Mpakamwa, said: “These people (MCDI) have helped us a lot. As we speak now, we are able to do most of the things as far as forest conservation and money management are concerned.”
Another resident, Mr Kitone said that the village is planning to use part of the money to send one of the educated villagers to be trained more on record-keeping, technology and finance management so that everything is done professionally.
MCDI chief executive officer, Jasper Makala, says villagers were now aware of the benefits they could get from the forest. This has given them motivation and the need to conserve the surrounding forests to get more benefits.
“Through our special programme called Participatory Forest Management (PFM), we have been doing a lot so that people feel the ownership of the natural resources that surround them. But our role is to help the villagers to identify the village with forests, give them with capacity to harvest sustainably, teach them forest management skills and also search for customers for their products.”
MCDI works at a district level as a partner in a project known as Mama Misitu. The project aims at building public, private and non-governmental partnerships and networks related to sustainable use of forests and timber products.
It also aims at promoting participatory forest management processes through the campaign, so that communities can increase their rights over their land and forests and strengthen their capacity to sustainably manage their forests.
Currently, Mama Misitu works in eight districts in a project that will run for five years (2012 – 2016). Throughout this programme, there will also be a focus on national level engagement, where Mama Misitu hopes to raise public awareness on the value of forests and their sustainable management to the nation.