Zanzibar — ZANZIBAR is sparing no efforts in conserving its endangered forest and environment, but Mzee Khatib, who resides close to Jozan forest in South Unguja, says it is a big challenge for the majority poor people to abandon reliance on forest.
"This is not easy; many of us rely on forest for our daily bread. People have to cut trees for logs, fire wood and timber for sale and for energy at home," argues Khatib after the launch of the Zanzibar's second National Tree Census.
He said that Zanzibar forests have been disappearing due to people's heavy reliance on forest products (especially wood for fuel) and an absence of alternative means. Lots of forests are also lost in the cause of clearing of land for agricultural purposes and infrastructure development.
However, Khatib joins his fellow villagers to assert that environment conservation which includes protection of forests and other measures are inevitable if Zanzibar is to minimize the negative impacts of climate change.
The recent launch of 'Coastal Forest and Wood Biomass Survey' is the continuation of Zanzibar's efforts in addressing the impacts of climate change. Other projects are SMOLE (Sustainable Management of Land and Environment) and HIMA (Hifadhi ya Misitu ya Asili).
HIMA project focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation in Zanzibar and generate carbon income which will provide direct and equitable incentives to communities to conserve forests sustainably.
According to Mr Sheha Hamdan, Director of Forest and Non-renewable Natural Resources, HIMA project specifically aims at promoting a pro-poor gender-equitable approach to community forest management in Zanzibar.
It includes piloting of carbon financing for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), which provides forest- dependent communities with secure property rights, equitable rewards for providing ecosystem services and other livelihood benefits.
It also informs the priorities of Zanzibar in national REDD strategy. He said that about 320m/- has been allocated for the HIMA project anticipating that 27,650 ha of forest in both the Islands of Unguja and Pemba will be protected.
The objective is to expand to reach at least 60,000 ha of forests in Zanzibar beyond the pilot phase. The target beneficiaries include 16,000 rural households. Norway is supporting the projects under CARE and primary implementing partners being the Zanzibar Department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Natural Resources.
The key players in the villages include Jozani Environmental Conservation Association (JECA), South Environmental and Development Conservation Association (SEDCA) and Ngezi-Vumawimbi Natural Resources Conservation Organization (NGERANECO); Zanzibar Bee Keepers Association (ZABA); Jozani Joint Development and savings and Credit Organization (JOZANI- JODCO) and Association for the land owners (UWEMAJO).
These are among the leading organizations partnering with the government in making sure that the environment and forests are protected. The alternative to heavy dependence on forest resources are poultry farming, bee keeping, manufacturing of stoves, hand crafts and eco-tourisms.
Khatib says although it is a challenge to abandon reliance on forests, it is possible to change people mindset by empowering the communities through provision of skills for sustainable development. "We have been struggling to conserve forest resources and more than 40 village committees are involved in the conservation efforts, while promoting sustainable use of the natural resources," he said.
The statement from the elderly man was similar to the villagers' joint message to President Ali Mohamed Shein before the launch of the tree census. The villagers said if all the conservation projects are successful, Zanzibar's risks to negative impact of climate change and environment degradation will definitely be minimized.
The villagers said in the statement that environment conservation and climate change mitigation requires patience, honesty, trust, good will and commitment by both members of the society and the government and that communities should be involved in the planning and implementation of the projects.
They emphasized that members of the community need awareness and knowledge on how to become entrepreneurs, engage in alternative income generating activities to replace reliance on forest; have easy access to loans and get the capacity to resolve land crisis including village boundaries amicably.
Protecting and restoring forests is an essential first response to climate change and now it is more important than ever. Environmentalists warn that the burning and clearing of forests contributes approximately 16 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions which contributes heavily to global warming.
The loss of forests is irreplaceable mainly because they are also a home to more than half of all species on Earth, their destruction therefore means the extinction of countless plant and wildlife species, many still unknown to scientists. Forests are also important ecosystems in the balance of nature, providing a multitude of resources and services essential to all people.
Destruction of habitat and resources forces people to move elsewhere for food, shelter and jobs, leading to greater poverty and social instability. The Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Affan Othman, said the national tree census is part of the implementation of the Forestry Act no.10 of 1996 which empowers the forest administrators to make trees inventory.
The inventory which is undertaken by the INDUFOR of Finland and the Zanzibar department of Forestry and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, is aimed at producing forest resource data per specie and per hectare to facilitate strategic planning and management purposes.
This is the second tree census after the one conducted in 1997 which provided the population of the Isles three main cash crops, coconuts, cloves and Mango trees. The rate of tree felling stood at 1,000 hectare annually, while the number of coconut trees in 1977 was 5.4 million down from 5.7 million and cloves trees were 5.9 million in 1977 up from 2.8 million in 1995.
In his speech to launch the tree counting exercise, President Ali Mohamed Shein appealed on people to plant trees, saying the survey is an important opportunity towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Zanzibar 2020 Development Vision, Zanzibar's Poverty Reduction Strategy (MKUZA II) as well as in the implementation of CCM's 2010/2015 Election Manifesto.
Dr Shein asked Zanzibaris to plant more trees in order to conserve the endangered environment since data shows that about 95 per cent of the people in the Islands still rely on forests for energy. He thanked Norway for its support to the one year project estimated to cost 750,000 US dollars. He also observed that the census would help Zanzibar improve its fruits and spices production.
Zanzibar is now implementing programmes to revive cloves and other spices, as other sources of foreign income. "I ask the Ministry of Agriculture to work with the Municipal Council to plant trees along all the roads in the municipality. We need to keep our islands green, since trees are also important for rain," he said at the launching ceremony.
Dr Shein reminded people at the gathering that there were many benefits from natural forests including wood, a home for many wild species and traditional herbs which are used by many people in the treatment of various illnesses. Zanzibar's conserved forests are Kiwengwa, Jozani, Chumbe-Kisiwani, Ufufuma, Msitu-mkuu and Ngezi.