Roadmap to Tanzania’s first miombo nature reserve

Blog by Kasukura Nyamaka. My work for SUSTAIN is based in the far western region of Tanzania, in the Sumbawanga cluster of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). It is a resource-rich region inhabited mainly by the Fipa people who maintain themselves by subsistence agriculture and livestock keeping.

We have two major lakes, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Rukwa, and several rivers like Rwiche and Katuma which ensure water supply and fishing and agricultural activities. Despite the production of major crops such as sunflower, beans, rice, and maize, and the presence of natural resources such as gold, uranium and coal, the poverty rate in this part of Tanzania is high with approximately 60% of people living on less than 2 dollars a day.

In the past, unsustainable practices led to the degradation of water and land resources. Water for example was diverted by illegal funnels leading to a drastically reduced river flow, putting downstream communities and wildlife at risk of drought. Trees were cut for household use and charcoal production which in turn transformed local lush forests into barren or agricultural land.

Since SUSTAIN became active in this region through SNV (the Netherlands Development Organisation), we have improved water management practices in the Katuma River (see SUSTAIN’s interest-driven partnerships: a win-win for river flow and farmers’ fields), established partnerships between local farmers and agricultural companies, and supported communities with land use planning practices in villages encompassing 45,000ha (roughly the size of Andorra). SUSTAIN supported 1,030 households in acquiring title deeds to their land and enabled the installation of renewable energy equipment in order to tap into the abundant availability of solar energy. This in turn improved household practices in adopting biogas for cooking and lighting.

I am particularly proud of our recent work in managing and protecting the forest resources in the region. When SUSTAIN started, there were no institutions managing the forests. We found the rate of forest degradation and deforestation to be very high, and unfortunately the community did not know how to properly manage the forests which remained. Water catchment within the forest reserves were also drying up. In working with the Tanzanian government and the local communities, we worked towards sustainably managing the local forests and formed committees in sixteen villages in order to raise awareness and capacity building.

Communities decided to set aside woodlots and community forests for conservation and sustainable use. Water resources within the forests were demarcated and managed through the community committees. Over 180ha of water catchment areas within the forest were demarcated for protection and a total of 13,112ha was demarcated to be village forest reserves. Thanks to the improvements in forest management, communities started to benefit through for example bee-keeping as apiculture was introduced as a revenue building activity. Levies were collected which went back to the communities, whereas previously these went to the central government. The forests now provide for sustainable fuelwood, medicine and timber for schools and village construction.

In 2016 during a project baseline study, we found several miombo forest patches degraded due to bushfires, shifting cultivation, charcoal burning and illegal logging. Miombo is one of the major dry forest-savannah biomes of the world, covering much of southern Africa. These areas have a lot of potential for biodiversity conservation, some within privately owned land and some within government owned reserves.

SUSTAIN presented the findings and the potential of protecting these forests to the Ministry of Natural Resources. The project team proposed a partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism through Tanzania’s Forest Services Agency by means of a memorandum of understanding. A partnership was formed between SNV, AWF and WCS to apply technical, financial and human resources to implement activities and seek the community’s support to establish a Nature Reserve.

SUSTAIN led the initiative in close collaboration with the government and even proposed the name of the Nature Reserve to be Kalambo Nature Forest Reserve. Through several meetings with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the National Land Use Planning Commission, SUSTAIN succeeded to establish a first miombo nature reserve in Tanzania, encompassing an area of 60,000 hectare in February 2019.

The now established Kalambo Nature Forest Reserve has a unique ecosystem value in terms of biodiversity, water catchment, amenities, and the livelihood of the forest adjacent communities. The area forms an ecological corridor that enables movement of wildlife from Kalambo Game Reserve in Zambia through the Kalambo Nature Forest Reserve to Katavi National Park and elsewhere in the central part of Tanzania. The conservation status of the forest can now also be identified as one of the potential tourism areas for investment and development.

Still we have many more things to accomplish as our goal is to make that Forest Nature Reserve to be one of the socio-ecological studies as found in the nature reserves in the Eastern Arc Mountains and stabilizing its institutional set-up. In my view, now is the right time to see whether we can look at the design of the proposed Kalambo ecosystem which lies between the Katavi National Park, including Lake Tanganyika, and stretching all the way to Kalambo in Zambia, making this a truly transboundary conservation effort.

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Kasukura Nyamaka is Project Officer for SUSTAIN, working through SNV as lead partner in the Sumbawanga cluster of the SUSTAIN-Africa programme.

For more information, please contact [email protected]

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