What is Community Forestry?
With numerous overlapping threats to both mpingo and its habitat a solution is required that will provide long term protection for the forests and a sustainable supply of mpingo. Where law enforcement is weak the people best able to exert some control over the forests are the people who live in and around them: the local communities. However, the question then becomes: why should they care?
At MCDI we are addressing this question by helping communities find concrete reasons to support sustainable forest management. In particular, we are helping communities gain access, control and user rights over their forests so that they can gain economic benefits from the natural resources that surround them, incentivizing communities to promote forest conservation.
For communities to reap the benefits from forest resources, they must first have rights and ownership over their forest. Fortunately, Tanzania has a favourable policy framework that supports community-based forest management which is known as Participatory Forest Management (PFM). Under this framework, communities are able to set aside areas as Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) managed by the Village Council and Village Natural Resource Committee, thereby clarifying local tenure over forest resources on village lands. However, the process to establish a formalized VLFR is costly, takes time and can be quite cumbersome and complicated. These challenges have therefore limited the number of established VLFRs in Tanzania, and the result is that very few communities are able to derive sufficient economic benefits that encourage them to carry out sustainable forest management practices. At MCDI we are trying to change this by assisting communities undergo the process to establish a formal VLFR, enabling them to take ownership over their forest resources.
Our strategy to achieve this is based on a number of key supporting building blocks:
- The high economic value of mpingo makes it an excellent flagship species for conservation.
- Growing concerns about the dubious legality of wood entering Western markets (especially the USA and the EU) has prompted new regulations pressurising timber buyers to find demonstrably legal sources.
- Forest certification allows the communities we support to securely label their timber as legally and sustainably felled, and from a responsibly managed forest.
- New international voluntary carbon markets are prepared to pay forest managers to safeguard the carbon locked up in their forests under a scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).