THE Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF)-supported tree growing projects in Iringa region have helped farmers get alternative income sources in addition to forests.
In an interview with 'Daily News', the EAMCEF Executive Director, Francis Sabuni, said farmers in the region, especially in Kilolo district, have been supported with fish farming and tree growing projects, through which they have reduced reliance on natural forests for their livelihood.
One of the farmers, Hamza Masao, who recently sold his one acre of pines to business people in Iringa at 3.4m/-, said the support they received from the Fund, including seeds and technical support has helped them appreciate the business of tree growing, which they sell to bigger business people for future timber harvest. "I plan to grow more trees.
At a low cost, I can generate good income... trees are easy to water from the shallow wells that are common in this area," said the farmer. Mr Sabuni said efforts to control depletion of the country's largest forest cover went a notch higher early this year when Norway signed a 5.9 million US dollar (9bn/-) agreement with the Fund.
The support will enable EANCEF implement a five-year project in the five mountainous region forests which currently face an annual depletion rate of 0.1 per cent due to human activities. The Norwegian funding will finance activities that seek to improve the management of the Eastern Arc Mountains, Nature Reserves and National Park, build the capacity of the Eastern Arc Endowment Fund Secretariat to take advantage of new funding opportunities and assist over three million people in the area find alternative sources of livelihood.
The main human activities include uncontrolled fire, conversion of natural habitats to agriculture, illegal logging, unsustainable collection of firewood and building materials, and inappropriate mining activities. Mr Sabuni noted that the mountains were important for the livelihood of Tanzanians in many ways, arguing that Biodiversity Conservation and Applied Research, which promotes the biological diversity, ecological functions and sustainable use of the natural resources in the Eastern Arc Mountains and the project, aims at enhancing such activities.
Published predictions indicate that the catchment function in the Eastern Arc might be reduced through forest loss and degradation by an estimated 50 per cent and quadruple the cost of water in the next nine years. The Eastern Arc Mountains is a range of 13 mountain blocks encompassing an area of some 23,000 square km which form a broad arc shape of some 600 square kilometres.
Some 12 of the 13 mountain blocks are found in the eastern part of the country within 15 districts and five regions, dating back 30 million years. Scientists at Sokoine University of Agriculture note that the natural forests on the mountains have been reduced from around 4750 square kilometres in 1955 to 3500 square kilometres.
They note that the largest loss is believed to have occurred in Usuguru mountain forests in the Uluguru and Eastern Usambara and in mountain forests in the Ikaguru and Rubeho ranges. Detailed analysis of the remote sensor shows that almost one per cent of the forest area has been lost between 1990 and 2000 across the Eastern Arc Mountain region, which is an annual rate of loss of around 0.1 per cent.