Arusha — Tanzania, one of the first countries in Africa to sign and ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the mid-1990s, has started to benefit from measures being taken globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Recently four villages, two in Morogoro district and one each in Babati and Muheza districts, managed to obtain a total of Sh8 million from a programme under the Kyoto Protocol for sale of carbon dioxide sequestered through participatory management of their village forests.
The villages are Mangala and Gwata in Morogoro district, Handei in Muheza, Tanga region and Ayasanda in Babati district in Manyara region.
The programme is called Kyoto; Think Global, Act Local (K:TGAL) and is one of the efforts being done to sell carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, sequestered through participatory management of village forests.
Contracts defining roles of the villages and K:TGAL programme were signed with the village governments and the money is in the process of being transferred to the villages' bank accounts.
The programme has been coordinated by Prof Rogers Malimbwi and Mr Eliakim Zahabu, both academicians working with the Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation at the Sokoine University of Agriculture.
Prof.Malimbwi said the programme involved participatory forest management (PFM) and entailed involvementg of local communities in the management of natural forests that would otherwise degrade or be deforested as a result of carbon emissions.
The government supports PFM in an effort to reduce the current 17 million hectares or 50 per cent of the total forest land in the country which is prone to deforestation and degradation during agricultural expansion, charcoal making and timber harvesting activities.
K:TGAL is a research and capacity building programme that involves research teams in three regions; East Africa, West Africa and the Himalayas and coordinates the work of local non-government organisations and conducts experiments with them in villages that are already engaged in PFM.
The project, says Prof. Malimbwi involves measuring, among others, the extent to which PFM practices increased sequestration in existing forests and reduce emissions of carbon by avoiding deforestation.
"The findings from this study shows that PFM projects store considerable higher amount of carbon compared to unmanaged forests," he said by telephone from Morogoro.
He added; "There is also evidence of carbon sequestration in these forests whereas in unmanaged forests carbon stocks are declining".
The forestry don and researcher cited two villages in Morogoro region where studies on carbon sequestration have been successfully carried out.
Research at Mgambo village realised an average yearly increase of 9.3 tonnes of sequestered carbon dioxide per hectare compared to poorly managed Kimunyu forest characterised with rampant charcoaling and timber harvesting which lost 9.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare.
"With these evidences, there is a possibility that PFM will benefit from the REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) policy which is one of the components of K:TGAL," he said.
Under the REDD policy, payments for carbon will be made at the national level on the basis of verified reductions in carbon lost through deforestation and degradation over a given period.
He explained that this will be based on the national reference scenarios for deforestastion and degradation agreed by the country and UNFCCC.
K:TGAL project, therefore, has set up a pilot scheme for the purchase of forest carbon from the village forests. Under the scheme, the funds are given to respective village governments.
Researchers, on the other hand, make a follow up to document on how the funds are managed , used and or distributed among villagers. This is how the four villages obtained the Sh8 million.
The Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), a global think tank of climate scientists, estimates that more than 20 per cent of gases responsible for climate change come from deforestation and forest degradation in the developing countries.
Besides carbon dioxide, other leading green house gases are methane and nitrous oxides. They are blamed for global warming, a process which has led to increased temperatures on the earth's lower atmosphere.