Tanzania Forestry Working Group (TFWG) has raised an alarm over the possibility of demoralizing local communities in Morogoro region from participating in conserving forests in their villages, calling on district authorities to make immediate interventions. The country's Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) policy emphasises on involvement of local communities in conservation of the forests and are given the right to own and use the forests for income generation for the betterment of villages.

However, the TFWG found out that in Kilosa and Morogoro district councils there were shortfalls that could deter successful implementation of the policy. After conducting a study on challenges and successes in implementation of the CBFM in nine villages in the two districts, the TFWG found out that revenues collected from village forests have been decreasing over the years, thus reducing benefits to communities.

The study was part of the project called Conserving Forests through Sustainable, forest-based Enterprise Support in Tanzania (CoForEST) implemented from 2019-2022. "Reduced revenues may undermine community motivation to support conservation because they would start seeing that forests do not benefit them," TFWG Coordinator Cassian Sianga remarked.

That, he argued, may lead to increase in deforestation practices by villagers as a result of changing of priorities. Mr. Sianga explained that five years ago when the villages started implementing the CBFM, revenues were high and villages used them for socio-economic development activities such as building schools. "Such visible benefits were boosting villagers' morale to preserve their forests, but now the revenues have significantly dwindled," he said.

He said CBFM committees, which are entrusted of duties to harvest sustainably and plan for revenues spending, attributed the decrease in revenue collection to directives and statements from district and regional authorities that citizens were not effectively engaged. "Other factors include failure by actors to provide information to the citizens at the right time and emergence of conflicts of interests among various authorities. However, during their investigation, the TFWG established that there was also poor financial management, as financial records were not properly kept. Elaborating on the community-based conservation," Mr. Sianga said such the law on forests is well articulated regarding the issue.

Local Government Act of 1982 as well as Village Land Act also give powers to villages to manage forests. "Policy and legislative environment are very good," he commented. Speaking about the importance of forests, he said they provide income to members of communities throughout their value chain, arguing that if forests are harvested sustainably, biodiversity remains intact. Veteran journalist Deogratius Mfugale, who presented a paper of the role of the media in forest conservation, said forestry, is an industry not only because it produces products, but its value chain benefits people through different ways.

On his part, Mr. Simon Lugazo said many villagers now have awareness over importance of forests in economy and essence of the community-based management, but the challenge is on funds management. "You can meet a villager explaining about importance of forest as if she or he is an expert," Mr. Lugazo said. He attributed the raised awareness to efforts by the government and Non-government organisations in creating awareness among the villagers.