How forests are helping to eradicate rural poverty in Tanzania

Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here is how we are using forests as a tool to alleviate rural poverty in Tanzania, where over one quarter (28.2%) of the population, equivalent to 12,670,000 people, are living below the basic needs poverty line. Ninety percent of these poor people live in rural areas, where inadequate public development spending leaves them disadvantaged in terms of nutrition, education, health, technology and access to financial services. This is especially true in south-eastern Tanzania, where infrastructure and social development lag behind other parts of the country.

"We're turning this around by empowering rural villages to own, manage and exploit natural forests to generate income that drives community development and livelihood improvement. This reduces their dependence on government and external funding which can be sporadic, short-lived and difficult to secure."

- Makala Jasper, MCDI's CEO.

Last year, our community partners invested TZS 133 million ($62,000), equivalent to 50% of the profits generated from sustainable timber harvesting in their local forests, to fund community development projects. They spent this money in ways that have resulted in better delivery of key services, such as clean water, education and health care, as follows:

Health care - 82 expectant mothers subsidised with money towards maternal care, bringing the total number of women benefiting from the support programme to 205 since it started in 2012.

Access to clean water - 2 new boreholes installed and 7 repaired.

Better education - 40 new desks and 200kg of maize for children’s lunches in a local primary school, furniture and solar panels for the house of a primary school teacher, and a secondary school laboratory.

Food security - 53 households provided with maize in time of famine.

In addition to generating income at the communal level, part-time employment in forest management activities provided direct income for an estimated 47% of local households in 2014. Halidi Ulaya (image) is one of an estimated 20,000 rural people in 11 of our partner communities who benefited. He used the income to buy maize for his family during a time of need.