GOVERNMENT has agreed to let 80 per cent of payments done under Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) to go to communities which protect forests.
An official from Africa Wildlife Foundation, Godlisten Matilya, told a Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Programme meeting held in Dar es Salaam over the weekend that after a lot of lobbying by environmental activists, the government has agreed that communities have the responsibility to protect forests hence should pocket the bulk of payments to be made under REDD.
“It’s communities that guard these forests because the government has inadequate forest officers to patrol these forests hence it’s logical that REDD payments should benefit them,” said Mr Matilya. According to Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania has over 33.5 million hectares of forests of which 13.5 million are state owned while 18 million belong to communities and the rest are owned by private companies, institutions and individuals.
Experts estimate that when a REDD regime becomes effective next year after the expiry of Kyoto Protocol, the country may earn up to 300 million US dollars from carbon credits bought by polluting industrialized countries. “These payments will greatly encourage communities to conserve forests as they have done for several years,” Matilya pointed out.
Dr Riziki Shemdoe from Ardhi University and Jummanne Abdallah from Sokoine University of Agriculture said expectations from REDD benefits are high among communities but there is weak structures at grass root level to manage funds. Dr Shemdoe and Dr Abdallah who are members of research groups undertaking studies in Kigoma, Lindi, Mbeya, Singida and Zanzibar and Mgori forest reserve, said non-governmental organizations have done a lot in sensitizing communities on REDD initiative hence awareness is very high.
“In some places trial REDD payments have been made by these NGOs which have motivated communities to guard their forests against destruction,” Dr Shemdoe noted. He said over 68 per cent of 600 households interviewed during the study said they knew something about REDD.
Dr Abdallah said at Mgori forest reserve communities have adopted modern beekeeping as a source of income which has encouraged conservation and checked against deforestation. “Six per cent of income of communities neighbouring the forest reserve come from honey,” Dr Abdallah said.
Sokoine University of Agriculture CCIAM Coordinator, Professor Salim Maliondo said the programme which involves research, training of masters and doctorate students has been funded by Norwegian government, United States government and United Nations REDD programme. He said the five-year programme which started in 2009 is coordinated by SUA but also involves University of Dar es Salaam and Ardhi University.