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Forest Network in Tanzania


· At least every television station in Tanzania has one programme on the environment and forest in particular on daily basis. There are several newspapers also producing news and feature articles.

· The area being denuded of forest cover is larger than most of the biggest districts, including Newala in Mtwara Region, whose size is 2,126 sq km.

· Forests play a vital role in fulfilling the diverse interests of a wide variety of stakeholders.

· About 39% of the land area of Tanzania is covered by forests (about 33,555,000 hectares). Around 96% of that area consists of the forest type called woodlands (mainly Miombo woodlands).

· The forest area is declining at an alarming rate especially in the none reserved area. It is estimated that deforestation in the country is about 400,000 ha. per annum due to various reasons e.g. trade.


  • Soren Dalsgaard and Mgeni Kara - FAO-FIN Projects, Tanzania

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  • Dr. Jasson Kalugendo and Dr. Christopher William - FAO-FIN, Tanzania

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  • Rahima Othman Njaidi - Community Forest Conservation Network of Tanzania

(MJUMITA), Tanzania

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  • Charles Ng’atigwa - Tanzania Forest Services, Tanzania

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  • George Mwita Matiko - Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania

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  • Gerald Kitabu - The Guardian, Tanzania

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Presentation to the Bagamoya Convention 2012

Forestry Communications Outlook in Tanzania

Gerald Kitabu


In recent years, the forestry sector has faced many challenges than ever before. This is due to several reasons which include increased population and the need for new settlements which in turn have caused encroachment of the forest areas. On the other hand, development of science and technology has also caused both positive and negative impacts on the sector. For example, it has evolved, offered new, more extensive, often faster and more cost-effective tools for the exchange of forestry information.

Forestry information activities related to a particular project cycle such as field documents, technical reports, terminal reports, statements, letters and evaluation reports are also other forms of forestry communications that need to address solutions to the challenges facing forestry communications.

Looking at expansion of print and electronic media including social networks such as blogs, face book, twitter, and many others, they have offered exciting opportunities to various stakeholders. In Tanzania for example, media has played a very big role in strengthening forestry communications as currently there are several programmes that are designed to educate different stakeholders on the wise use and proper management of the resource. At least every Television in Tanzania has one programme on the environment and forest in particular on daily basis. There are several newspapers also producing news and feature articles.

However, despite all these, one would learn that thousands of hectares of forests are destroyed annually, something which needs for rethinking of forestry communications systems and programs that we have in place now and come up with the most effective forestry communications systems.

Therefore, new communication systems and programmes that recognizes roles of each community and different players such as the local people, media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations and the private sector as well as governments would result in the expansion of the audiences for effective information flows that in turn would strengthen the forestry communications.


Corruption and lack of close cooperation between government officials, the general public and different stakeholders have paralyzed effective forestry communications resulting into massive deforestation in various areas in the country. For example, the villagers and leaders of seven villages living near Ngumburuni Forest Reserve in Rufiji District, Coast Region said last month that a syndicate constituting business tycoons have been conducting illegal logging, threatening the existence of the forest.

The villages say there is massive deforestation, with marks of tires of the vehicles used to ferry the logs. The villagers said the logs are ferried during the night and when they report the matter, the district authorities never take action, leading them to believe that the officials could be colluding with the illegal loggers.

As a result, different surveys from local and international organizations carried out two years ago, put the annual deforestation in Tanzania at 420,000 hectares (4,200 sq km).

The area being denuded of forest cover is larger than most of the biggest districts, including Newala in Mtwara Region, whose size is 2,126 sq km. This is a lack of a "common denominators" for communication with the many stakeholders in the forestry.

Another challenge is lack of resources and experts that would have linked the villagers, and decision makers or other stakeholders to strengthen effective communications. For example, many villagers are willing to effectively communicate and manage the resource well but lacked weapons and communications equipments.

Way forward

· Effective use of media, both print and electronic media including social networks, should link various stakeholders at all times and give feedback.

· Empower local people especially those living in rural areas or near forests in terms of education on the forest management and equipments to be able to effectively communicate with, local leaders, government leaders and other stakeholders.

· Participatory forest management and fight corruption in the forestry sector.

· Use creative and ICT experts to develop materials that would help forestry communications.

Strengths and Weakness in Forestry Communications in Tanzania

Rahima Njaidi


Forests play a vital role in fulfilling the diverse interests of a wide variety of stakeholders. For the private sector, forests are a lucrative source of income and opportunity for investment. For the Government, it is a source of revenue and power. For forest dependent communities, forests as the resource base is an important element of the household portfolio.

This makes forest sector projects complex and multifaceted. The projects potentially have issues of conflicting vested interests, states unwilling to relinquish control of resources, livelihood issues involving local forest uses and indigenous groups, as well as problems of illegal extraction and much more.

With the rise of forest issues on the global agenda and the increasing relevance of other sectors, communication has become a key element in present-day forestry.

Strengths in forestry communication:

· The increase in interest in forestry related projects with support from development partners.

· Diversity of communication tools for different audiences.

  • Existence of zonal publicity units.

· Existence of Eastern Arc Communication Strategy.

· Existence of stakeholders interested in communicating forest issues.

· Existence of community forest networks which facilitate information sharing amongst community members.


· High costs involved in preparation of communication materials (publications-leaflets, newsletters, brochures, posters).

· Communication materials/tool tend to exclude the illiterate and the marginalised section of population.

· Time allocated maybe not sufficient for some of the tools used for communication such as meetings, workshops.

· Some communication tools need constant engagement with target audience hence expensive to manage.

· Some cultural beliefs tend to exclude women from participating in communication activities.

· Too much expectation raised which cannot be managed.

· Lack of commitment and funds to implement existing communication strategies under NFP and others.

· Terminology used are challenging, technical words difficult to put in language which a normal person/community can understand.

· Inadequate capacity to monitor and measure/evaluate impacts of communication interventions.

· There is little capacity for media people/journalists to effectively communicate forestry issues to the general public.


· Development or operationalize existing communication strategies through allocating reliable funding.

· Use participatory approaches in media production, management, training etc. to increase local ownership and credibility and sustainability of the projects.

· Develop specific messages for communicating to specific audiences in specific timings.

· Develop a comprehensive capacity building package for journalists to be able to communicate forestry related issues in different formats.

Forest Communication in Tanzania: Strengths, Challenges, and Opportunities

George Matiko


Forest Resources in Tanzania

About 39% of the land area of Tanzania is covered by forests (about 33,555,000 hectares). Around 96% of that area consists of the forest type called woodlands (mainly Miombo woodlands).


Problems Facing the Forest Resources

The forest area is declining at an alarming rate especially in the none reserved area. It is estimated that deforestation in the country is about 400,000 ha. per annum due to various reasons e.g. trade.

  • Illegal harvesting is a problem that is experienced all over the country. Some people do not harvest according to specifications indicated in their permits and some may harvest without any legal permit.
  • Encroachment is one of the problems that prevail due to population increase. In 1961 Tanzania population was less than 10m, now the population is estimated to be 40m. Population increase is related to forest decline as it dictates more forest area to be opened to give way to crop fields. This is made worse by agriculture style called shifting cultivation in which farmers open new forest areas annually.
  • Overgrazing is one of the obstacles to effective forest management. Overgrazing is experienced mostly in the woodlands that cover about 96% the total forest area.
  • Forest fires occur annually especially in non-reserved forests. Most of the fires are caused by hunters, beekeepers, charcoal dealers, farmers, cattle owners etc.
  • Climate change: Symptoms of climate change are already prevailing in Tanzania. Some of them are: long droughts, floods, dry streams etc. It is believed that such symptoms are contributed partly by human activities mentioned above.

Need for Effective Forest Communication

Efforts are going on in Tanzania aimed at addressing challenges facing the forest resource. Some of the guidelines are outlined in the National Forest Policy, the National Forest Programme and the Forest Act. However, the output of the efforts has not yet attained higher levels of success. Hence formulation of effective communication programmes is inevitable.

Government Communication Unit

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) formed its Government Communications Unit in June 2004. Generally it is the National Natural Resources Policies that are being communicated by the Unit to the audiences.

The activities of the Government Communications Unit may be categorised according to the type of audience as follows:

  • Internal Communications: to keep the staff and selected stakeholders informed;
  • External communications: to inform and create awareness to the public on MNRT policies, objectives and activities so that the public may implement them willingly;
  • Media relations: to monitor news about the sector, and to inform the media about MNRT policies.

One of the communications strengths MNRT has is the fact that Communications/Publicity/Marketing Units have been in place for a long time in MNRT Divisions, Agencies, Organisations and Institutes. For example, the Forestry and Beekeeping Division has a strong Forest Extension and Publicity Unit (now under the Tanzania Forest Service Agency).

The Units are designing programmes aiming at influencing voluntary behavior of forest stakeholders (audiences) to achieve management objectives. Some of the stakeholders in question are farmers, cattle owners, forest products traders, beekeepers, hunters, Institutions etc.


· Equipped Forest Extension Unit available within the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (now under Tanzania Forest Service) at national and zonal levels;

· Various Communication Channels are available in Tanzania e.g. both electronic and print media, meetings;

· Existence of Forest Extension Staff under the Local Government authorities;

· Kiswahili language is spoken all over the country. Hence used as medium of communication in the whole country;

· Rural people easily reached as they stay in organized villages;

  • Political will.


  • Inadequate staff;

· Extension teams need to be multi-disciplinary i.e. to contain forestry, agriculture and livestock disciplines;

· Forest management is given low priority in the Local Governments;

· Some of the channels are expensive to hire e.g. electronic media;

  • Inadequate funding;

· Sometimes of the media may give negative information to the audience.



· Conducive policies exist e.g. the Participatory Forest Management - PFM;

· Existence of popular indigenous knowledge;


Success may be attained if Forest Communications Objectives are given priority by being incorporated in all Development objectives.

Improving the delivery of forest resource goods and services: A multimedia approach where modern and traditional methods converged

Charles Ng’atigwa


Shinyanga is one of Tanzanias poorest regions, its low hills and plains characterized by long dry summers with only 700 mm of rainfall a year on average. As its woods were cleared from the 1920s onward, land and soil became over-used and degraded, causing a sharp decline in the natural goods on which the Sukuma people had depended for centuries. Women spent more time collecting formerly plentiful fuel wood; grasses to feed livestock became scarcer, as did traditionally harvested wild fruit and medicinal plants.

The regions ecological problems were compounded by a booming human population and by the Wasukuma extensive land-use needs. Nine in ten of Shinyanga households live by small-scale farming, with families dependent on cropland and livestock pasture for both subsistence farming and cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, and rice (Monela et al. 2004:21-22). Since cattle are highly valued as a liquid asset, many households also kept livestock herds too large for their land to sustain, and burning of woodland to create pasture was common practice.

By the 1970s Shinyanga was under severe ecological strain, its people feeling the consequences in the form of falling incomes and lost livelihoods (Monela et al. 2004:12-13). Early attempts at reforestation launched by Tanzania government, the World Bank, and other agencies largely failed to stem the loss of indigenous woodland and its impact on communities.

Top-down, bureaucratic management of projects meant that villagers had little involvement or stake in the success of these efforts. During the 1970s, the socialist government of President Julius Nyerere also adopted laws that increased communal ownership of rural land and encouraged people to live in discrete villages where services could be better provideda process called villagization.

Individual ngitili enclosures, which many villagers had carefully sustained for food, fodder, fuelwood, and medicines, were no longer encouraged. Indeed, many ngitili were destroyed during the period, as the villagization process undermined traditional institutions and practices (Monela et al. 2004:102).

In 1986, Tanzania government shifted tactics dramatically and launched the people-centered, community-based Shinyanga Soil Conservation Programme, known simply as HASHI (from the Swahili Hifadhi Ardhi Shinyanga). The impetus came from President Nyerere himself, who declared Shinyanga the Desert of Tanzania after touring the region. By 1987, HASHI was operational and by 1989 it had attracted additional, long-term support from the Norwegian

Development Assistance Agency

The Revival of Ngitili

Working within the Village Structure

The project innovative efforts to improve rural livelihoods are based on reviving ngitili, an indigenous natural resource management system (Barrow and Mlenge 2004:1). Traditionally, ngitili were used to provide forage for livestock especially oxenat the end of the dry season when villagers plough their land. Vegetation and trees are nurtured on fallow lands during the wet season so that livestock fodder supplies are available for dry months.

There are two types of ngitili: enclosures owned by individuals or families, and communal enclosures owned and managed in common. Both were originally developed by the Sukuma in response to acute animal feed shortages caused by droughts, the loss of grazing land to crops, and declining land productivity (Barrow and Mlenge 2003:6).

The HASHI projects approach to ngitili revival was to work with local people, first to identify areas requiring urgent land restoration, and then to restore them according to customary practice. Field officers, employed by the Division of Forestry and Beekeeping in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, worked closely with both district government staff and village government authoritiesthe lowest accountable bodies in Tanzania government (Barrow 2005b).

The use of Natural Seeds and Root Stocks

In many villages, HASHI field officers used residual natural seed and root stock to restore ngitili enclosures. In others, active tree planting (first of exotic species, later of the indigenous tree species preferred by local people) was carried out, especially around homesteads. Some of the restored ngitili dated back to pre-villagization days.

Others were newly created by farmers and villages. In addition to restoring ngitili, villagers were encouraged to plant trees around homesteads (particularly fruit and shade trees), field boundaries, and farm perimeters. This helped improve soil fertility and provide firewood, and had the side benefit of helping farmers to stake out and formalize their land rights within villages (Barrow 2005c).

The Use of Multimedia Extension Tools

A range of tools were used to educate and empower villagers. These included Participatory Video, Interactive Theater, Newsletters, Meetings Farmer to Farmer Visits and Workshops to demonstrate firsthand the links between soil conservation, forest restoration, and livelihood security. Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methods helped villagers to identify local natural resource challenges and agree on solutions (Kaale et al. 2003:13-14).

Farmers and villagers received training in how to get the most out of their ngitili. For example, they learned which indigenous species were best suited to enrich farms soils or create dense boundary plantings. Armed with this powerful combination of traditional and scientific knowledge, villages across Shinyanga gradually revitalized the institution of ngitili and broadened its use from simple soil and fodder conservation to production of a wide range of woodland goods and services. Products such as timber, fodder, fuelwood, medicinal herbs, wild fruits, honey, and edible insects enhanced livelihoods and provided a vital safety net during dry seasons and droughts (Barrow and Mlenge 2003:1).

Spread beyond HASHI and Shinyanga

In the early years, restoration efforts proceeded gradually as cautious farmers and communities assessed the benefits and rights which ngitili regeneration produced. By the early 1990s, with the project effectiveness beyond doubt, restoration efforts spread rapidly through the region. In 1986, about 600 hectares of documented ngitili enclosures existed in Shinyanga.

A survey of 172 sample villages in the late 1990s revealed 18,607 ngitili (284 communal, the rest owned by households) covering roughly 78,122 hectares (Kaale et al. 2003:8, Barrow and Mlenge 2004:1). Extrapolating from these figures, project managers estimate that more than 350,000 hectares of land in Shinyanga were in use as ngitili, with nine in ten inhabitants of Shinyanga 833 villages enjoying access to ngitili goods and services (Barrow 2005b).



Making it Work: Traditional and Local Institutions

HASHs empowering approach was unusual among 1980s rural development programs, but critical to its success. Promoting ngitili as the vehicle for land restoration increased local peoples ownership over natural resources and their capacity and will to manage them. Likewise, allowing traditional Wasukuma institutions and village governments to oversee restoration efforts helped to ensure their region-wide success. While elected village governments officially manage communal ngitili, and also decide disputes regarding individually owned ngitili, in practice traditional institutions have played an equally important role in most villages (Kaale et al. 2003:14-16; Monela et al. 2004:98).

For example, while each village sets its own rules on ngitili restoration and management, most use traditional community guards known as Sungusungu and community assemblies known as Dagashida to enforce them. The Dagashida is led by the Council of Elders which decides what sanctions to impose on individuals caught breaking ngitili management rules, for example by grazing livestock on land set aside for regeneration (Monela et al. 2004:98-99).

HASHI field officers have worked to build the capacity and effectiveness of both official and traditional governance institutions. Elected village governments, for example, are increasingly using their powers to approve by-laws that legally enshrine the conservation of local ngitili. Such by-laws, once ratified at the district level, are recognized as legitimate by the national government (Barrow and Mlenge 2003:9, Barrow 2005c).

In general, devolution of decision-making to village institutions has clearly increased local responsibility for natural resource management and promoted the success of ngitili conservation in Shinyanga (Monela 2005). This success has not been lost on Tanzania’s other regions, three of which, Kigoma, Mwanza and Tabora, are now adapting and replicating HASHI’s empowerment methods (Barrow and Mlenge 2004:2).

The Results

The task force estimated the cash value of benefits from ngitili in Shinyanga at US$14 per person per month,significantly higher than the average monthly spending per person in rural Tanzania, of US$8.50 (Monela et al 2004:6). Of the 16 natural products commonly harvested from ngitili, fuelwood, timber, and medicinal plants were found to be of greatest economic value to households. Other valuable outputs included fodder, thatch-grass for roofing, and wild foods such as bush meat, fruit, vegetables, and honey (Monela et al. 2004:54-56).

In surveyed villages, up to 64 percent of households reported that they were better off due to the benefits derived from ngitili. The task force, headed by Professor Monela, concluded that ngitili restoration demonstrates the importance of tree-based natural resources to the economies of local people and offers a significant income source to supplement agriculture to diversify livelihoods in Shinyanga region(Monela et al. 2004:7,16).

The study also documented the ripple effect of these economic benefits in peoples lives. Maintaining ngitili has enabled some villagers , mainly through sales of timber and other wood products, to pay school fees, purchase new farm equipment, and hire agricultural labor. Income generated by communal ngitili has been used to build classrooms, village offices, and healthcare centers (Monela et al. 2004:91).

The new abundance of fruits, vegetables, and edible insects has also improved local health, while easy access to thatched grass has improved housing. Raised water tables due to soil conservation have increased water supplies within villages.

The study also confirms that villagers, particularly women, are saving considerable time by no longer having to walk long distances for fuelwood, fodder, and thatch. This frees men and women to concentrate on other income-generating activities while also fostering improved child care and school attendance (Monela et al 2004:108).

There are useful lessons to be drawn, both by Tanzanias government and other comparable countries. At a time when conservation is increasingly being asked to justify itself in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, the HASHI experience offers detailed insights into the reasons for considering biodiversity conservation as a key component of livelihood security and poverty reduction (Barrow 2005b; Barrow and Mlenge 2004:1).

The HASHI project is clearly a success story, drawing attention far beyond Shinyanga borders.


Out of this experience, it is obvious that, proper communication messages, channels and tools is central to the success of forest resources management and eventually impacting positively on the livelihoods of the local communities. Access to information give space and build base to voice opinion and facilitate debates over resources management. The principle criteria for facilitating debate at this stage is that the organisations involved must demonstrate that they are directly accountable to forest resources management, involving the communities and empowering poor and vulnerable people.

Facilitate Local Networking and Grassroots Organisation

Once framed or documented – usually on video or audio - the issues will be shown or aired back locally and the original issue would be discussed with other people in their village or street to gauge interest and conviction. If is an issue that many subscribe to and that people hold strong views about partners in the process would be supported to facilitate meetings between or within villages or streets to identifying options for action and collective choices. In an iterative process of documenting, showing back and networking some claims and options for action would gain institutional momentum where new coalitions or groups would emerge and existing groups would federate.

Facilitate Negotiation on Rights, Management and Revenue Sharing

Where local networking leads to federation of local groups and momentum to negotiate changes process will work with local groups to identify opportunities and open doors for negotiating new agreements with key stakeholders.

Advocate Successful New Institutional Agreements

Where agreements are ground-breaking or have potential to set precedents on the management of forest resource then this would set a base for supporting parties involved for supportive policy and enacting legal reform.

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