Mafinga — SAO Hill Forest's contribution to the government revenue increased in 2011/12, raising to 25 billion from the 21 billion collected the previous year.
Briefing the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, who was on official tour to address conflicts between villagers and Sao Hill forest (SHF), Assistant Manager Planning and Harvesting, Ms Mandalo Abeid Salum said in 2010/11 the amount was about 22bn/-, equal to 134 per cent of the targeted 16bn/-.
"The revenues have been increasing every year because a lot of forest land has trees that have reached maturity and are ready for timber harvesting," she explained. Ms Salum noted that Sao Hill has 356 permanent employees, out of which 207, which is 58 per cent are locals from Mufindi area and the remaining 42 per cent from other districts in the country.
She explained that Sao Hill forest employs more than 1,000 labourers (vibarua) yearly, to perform different duties at the Sao Hill Forest, many of them being locals from Mufindi, specifically from villages surrounding the forests.
"Approximately 30,000 locals receive employment every year, in timber and paper industries and more than 1,000 locals conduct different business activities including selling of food, transportation of timber within the forest," she explained.
She explained that Sao Hill forest allocated 50m/- for the year 2012/13 for development projects including the health sector, education and construction of village offices in villages surrounding the forest farm. In the years 2010/11 and 2011/12 the forest farm had allocated 25m/- for similar projects.
"This formula will be done for a set of five villages every year, such that next year a different set of villages will benefit. The villages are responsible for making a list of developmental projects that they want," she explained. In 2010/11 Kitasengwa, Ihalimba, Itimbo, Nyololo and Mninga villages benefited from the plan, where each village received equipments worth 5m/-.
Earlier in her report to the minister, the Mufindi District Commissioner (DC), Ms Evarista Kalalu, told him that villagers had invaded over 1,000 hectares of Sao Hill forest. Ms Kalalu said the villagers had been staying in those areas for between 25 and 30 years.
These include Wamimbwale, Usokami, Kibengu, Igeleke, Mapanda and Kitasengwa villagers. During his visit, Ambassador Kagasheki visited part of the forest farm where villagers had invaded and set up permanent residence. The minister promised to tackle the problem after receiving final reports of two committees, one a national committee, set up to probe the disputes.