APPROPRIATION of massive land from villagers for tree planting in the Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Forest (REDD) programme is feared to threaten food security, unless the exercise was carefully undertaken.
While presenting a paper in Dar es Salaam on Thursday, on the Tanzania Forest Policy and the Future of Land Rights to Small and Medium Entrepreneurs, Advocate Joseph Chiombola from the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRRI/HAKIARDHI) said chunks of land acquired by large companies deprive villagers of their land.
"Such companies open large plantations at the expense of villagers whose land they could have cultivated on is taken away. Investors realize super profits that do not benefit the villagers," Chiombola said during a monthly seminar organised by LARRI/HAKIARDHI.
He further advised the government to speed up the process leading to the establishment of a joint agreement with local communities to instill sense of ownership in forest management and the subsequent good returns to both sides. "It is time to have official agreements between villagers and the central government to cement work relationships in forest conservation and planting more for the society to enjoy direct benefits," the advocate said.
According to the Forest Act Number 14 of 2002, local communities are encouraged to play an active role in conservation of forests which should be under their ownership in partnership with the government. Contributing to the debate, Abdallah Matata from Chanika in Ilala district said the larger part of Kazimzumbwi natural forest was almost depleted following years of systematic deforestation due to irresponsible leaders who failed to keep an eye on the resources.
He further alleged that foreign investors in the sector were inclined to realize benefits and forget about local communities. He added that authorities like the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and that of Lands and Human Settlements Development should work out a common strategy to make sure that local communities also benefit from the available natural resources.
Ms Haika Mcharo from Enviro-Care urged leaders at different levels ranging from the government, the private sector, NGOs and the entire public who have had the opportunity to attend global forums to be bold enough to share global concerns on forestry and discuss with the communities appropriate measures to improve the situation.
Another participant, Ms Pamela Massau from Caritas challenged the government to help establish clear forest demarcations in order to ensure that small and medium entrepreneurs do not invade natural forest reserves.