Dodoma — The government has formed an independent 12-member committee for co-ordinating measures for curbing timber smuggling, which has minimised the forestry sector's contribution to the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for a long period.
Natural Resources and Tourism Deputy Minister Engineer Ramo Makani, said over the weekend here, that the team will oversee the industry's activities and advise the government on how best the sector's performance could be improved.
"We want the sector to beef up its contribution to the economy," the deputy minister said at its launch. Tanzania is the second largest country with plant species in Africa. It hasn't exploited its forest to the fullest and is suffering from illegal exports of logs that deny the country its rightful revenues.
"It's time to reflect and set targets of protecting the forest due to its social, environmental and economic benefits. We want the forest to contribute more to the national economy," he said.
The committee, established under Forest Act No 14, 2002, will advise the minister on policy matters and prepare annual reports on the forest industry. The deputy minister stressed the need for strengthening forest service agencies as part of a collective approach to improve the sector's contribution. Increasing patrols and netting timber smugglers would be some of the initiative's highlights.
The Permanent Secretary, Maj General Gaudence Milanzi, explained that, among other things, the committee would assist in the conservation and administration of foresst across the country.
He said besides beekeeping, and natural resources experts, the committee would include representatives from the public service, higher learning institutions, civil society organisations, and the public sector.
The PS expressed optimism that the ministry would benefit from the pool of experts in protecting, conserving and promoting the sector. One of the committee members, Prof Reuben Mwamakimbullah, pointed out that protecting the forest was a major challenge.
"Cooperation between stakeholders hasn't been satisfactory.
Many parts forest reserves have been a hideout for bhang growers, who, obviously, cannot disclose their illegal activities," he noted. Copies of the National Forest Programme 2001, the Forest Regulations of 2004 and Forest Act No 14 of 2002, were presented to the committee.