The Ambassador for Sweden in Tanzania commends FSC-certified community forests

“If I want to buy hardwood from a tropical country, like Tanzania... if I want to buy a table... then I will always look at the side to see, is it FSC? No FSC and I will not touch it.” Hon. Anders Sjöberg, the Ambassador of Sweden to the United Republic of Tanzania.

Hon. Anders Sjöberg addresses the community in Nanjirinji A village

Group photo in front of Nanjirinji A village office, funded using revenues from FSC-certified timber sales

Primary school in Nanjirinji A, funded using revenues from FSC-certified timber sales

This week MCDI and our partners, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Kilwa District Council, hosted an esteemed guest, Hon. Anders Sjöberg, the Ambassador of Sweden to the United Republic of Tanzania. Through their programme, Swedish International Development Aid (SIDA), Sweden has invested heavily in the conservation of forests and wildlife in Tanzania.

Our initiative, through WWF, is one of the many projects to benefit from SIDA. We are working to develop and roll out our tried and tested business model that enables rural villages to derive economic benefits from managing their forest resources responsibly, primarily through Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified hardwood timber sales. Fourteen villages are currently registered under our FSC group certificate and these are the first - and still the only - rural communities in Africa that are managing their natural forests to meet FSC’s stringent international standards.

On Monday 25th February 2019, the Ambassador visited our community forestry programme to learn directly from the villages, how exactly they are working to manage their FSC-certified forests.

We decided to take the Anders to visit a rural community, Nanjirinji A, with which we have been working for seven years since 2012.

Nanjirinji A manages an impressive 83,538ha of FSC-certified forests on their land. This is the largest area managed by a single village across our entire FSC group certificate scheme, which has a current membership of 14 villages managing 190,552ha of forests. To date, Nanjirinji A has benefitted through generating more than TZS 880.5 million ($434,640) from sustainable timber to feed back into the management of their village forest reserve and to fund a variety of local development projects.

Our meeting in Nanjirinji A was held in the new village office, which was built in 2017/18 using funds generated from sustainable timber sales. The villagers reported on the different ways in which they have used revenues from sustainable timber sales to fund forest management and local development.

“My understanding from your presentation is that you are doing a fantastic job at both taking care of your resources but also at making revenues from them.” Hon. Anders Sjöberg, the Ambassador of Sweden to the United Republic of Tanzania.

In addition to expressing how impressed he was at the progress that had been made by the village to manage their forests in a sustainable and profitable way the Ambassador left the village with three key take homes to explore:

1. Start developing savings for long-term planning

“We saw the revenues you are making and we also saw the costs, how you invest your funds... Do you save money for the future?”

The Ambassador encouraged the community to save a portion of their forests revenues each year for future investments, such as equipment and infrastructure to add value to their timber and other things.

2. Start thinking about the village’s future self-sufficiency

“When do you see that you could also be self reliant as a village without external support from experts like MCDI, WWF and so on... in the near future?”

The Ambassador implored the community to start preparing itself for the eventuality that international donors will not be around, and to explore ways in which they will be able to ensure they can continue to sustainably manage and benefit from conserving their forests in their absence.

3. Explore additional opportunities to add value to their timber

After hearing the community’s plans to begin processing logs into sawn timber using a mobile FSC-certified sawmill, the Ambassador encouraged them not to stop there, but to explore options for additional value-added processing which will enable them to secure a higher mark up for their timber, including by selling directly into international markets where people are prepared to pay premium prices for FSC-certified sustainable hardwoods.

“There is a world market out there... and people are prepared to pay a lot of money for the wood you have here”

“I would also like to encourage you to climb the value chain, like you’re doing, but even refine it more... You actually could start furniture factories... there are so many beautiful things that you could do... You have a lot of skilled craftsmen here in Tanzania.” Hon. Anders Sjöberg, the Ambassador of Sweden to the United Republic of Tanzania.

Before leaving Nanjirinji A, we passed through the village to visit children in the local primary school and a water well, both of which are a credit to the local forests, having been funded by revenues from sustainable timber sales. The pupils we met at the primary school certainly seemed happy, as are we, and so was the Ambassador of Sweden.

Finally, before departing from Kilwa, The Ambassador met with Kilwa District Commissioner, Hon. Christopher Ngubiagai who, on behalf of the Government, thanked Sweden for their immense contributions towards forest conservation in Southern Tanzania, particularly in Kilwa District.