WITH generous support from the Government of Norway, Tanzania has been engaging in piloting readiness activities of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in different parts of the country.
The five years project which started in 2009 is implemented in partnership with the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG and the Community Forest Conservation Network of Tanzania (MJUMITA).
The project covers the Eastern Arc (Kilosa and Mpwapwa Districts) in an area covering 19 villages with 140,000 hectares of forest and Coastal Forests (Lindi District) covering 17 villages with 75,000 hectares of forest.
According to the TFCG Project Manager, Ms Bettie Luwuge the project aims to pilot a mechanism whereby REDD finance can bring about additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by channelling incentives as directly as possible to communities with forests on their land.
"In the absence of a compliance market for REDD or a fund-based mechanism, the project aims to assist communities to access funds from the voluntary market. It is our intention that the model could also be used in other areas to channel different types of REDD's finance to communities," she said.
The project has the goal to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Tanzania in ways that provide direct and equitable incentives to rural communities to conserve and manage forests sustainably.
While the purpose is to demonstrate, at local, national and international levels, a pro-poor approach to reducing deforestation and forest degradation by generating equitable financial incentives for communities that are sustainably managing or conserving Tanzanian forests at community level. "So far the project has secured the consent of the 36 participating villages.
We have worked with women and men from each individual village to identify appropriate strategies to address deforestation and carried out participatory social impact assessments at village and site level," says Ms Luwuge. She adds that from there, the project implementers have been working with the communities to implement the plans and that they have been doing the more technical Monitoring Reporting and Verification-oriented activities in order to develop the project design documents for the Verified Carbon Standard and for the Climate Community and Biodiversity project standard.
Under the project, carbon assessments are done with the participation of local communities and results of forest change analysis have been integrated into the participatory land use planning and forest management planning. The project has several key social and environmental components of standards that experts believe that they should be promoted; they include stakeholders' livelihoods, environment, governance equity and rights among others.
"There are many reasons for REDD in Tanzania to incorporate these social and environmental safeguards and standards. While they have different strengths, these instruments generally reflect internationally recognized best practice and several points of broad consensus," said the TFCG Executive Director, Mr Charles Meshack. Mr Meshack noted that stakeholder's livelihoods have strong safeguards that promote participatory approaches to identify relevant strategies to improve livelihoods and reduce deforestation such as participatory social impact assessment.
He noted that it also helps in ensuring an equitable sharing mechanism for REDD revenues which is transparent, participatory and ensures accountability at all levels. Mr Meshack says that the environment standard promote community tenure rights through innovative best practices of integrated natural resources planning and management such as village land use planning. "National safeguards are needed to ensure REDD contributes to the welfare of rural communities and environmental protection in Tanzania.
Ensuring sustainability of social and environmental co-benefits," he said. As of governance, participation and rights, he said that getting the governance framework right at local, national and international level is critical for ensuring that REDD functions brings positive impacts to community livelihoods. It ensure that Local communities are adequately informed about the activities and requirements of REDD initiatives, the potential benefits and risks, and are free to decline or accept REDD initiatives.
"Full, effective and empowered participation of forest dependent communities and other vulnerable people at all levels of REDD need to be promoted through capacity building," he said. Ms Luwuge noted that as the TFCG implements the project, various challenges are happening and proposed that one of the best solutions would be by the government to empower local authorities and stakeholder involvement to ensure effective supervision of natural forests which are likely to disappear due to massive deforestation.
She said forests under the central government's supervision are neglected by village authorities. She added that it was better if the forests had been under village authorities who are living in the vicinity of such forests as they would easily detect any invader and take actions by themselves. Forests that lie outside of village forest reserves but within village boundaries are on Village Land and not General Land and are thus under the authority of the Village Assembly.
Consistent misrepresentation of unreserved forests within village boundaries as being General Land leavesthem open to land grabbing and exploitation without the consent of the village thereby increasing the risk of deforestation. "It has been a trend that people come, especially in the name of 'investment' and invade natural forests from where they illegally harvest trees and because village authorities have no power over such forests they do not do anything to stop them," she said.
The perception here is that the villagers tend to believe that such harvesters have acquired permission from authorities and since the village leaders are not mandated to supervise such forests they lack the confidence to question harvesters.
She noted that already villagers surrounding some forests now under massive deforestation by invaders have shown interest to take control and that if put in charge they would assure such forests are safe. "It should be noted, however, that villagers needs to be educated and more awareness created to their leaders so that they can be able to perform their responsibilities."