degraded miombo in Tanzania

The forest sector in Tanzania

Tanzania (Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar) is among the richest countries in terms of biodiversity and other natural resources. In this post, Greyson Z. Nyamoga tell us more about forest sector in Tanzania. If you are a forest geek, and you are planning to visit Tanzania soon, definitely this post will help you to understand better the forestry and wood industry in such a beutiful country as Tanzania. Enjoy!


Forest and nature attractions in Tanzania

Geographically, Tanzania is located in the East Africa along the Indian Ocean. The country is the home of the famous highest mountain in Africa, the KILIMANJARO. It has about 16 national parks which in total cover an area of about 42,000 km2. These national parks are owned by the Central Government and managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism under the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA). The most famous National parks are Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Mahale National Park, Saadan National Park, Manyara National Park, Katavi National Park, Arusha National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Mkomazi Game Reserve and Gombe National Park. Each of these national parks is characterized by different animals or other peculiar features. For instance, by visiting Manyara National Park, tourists will be able to see tree climbing lions while in Ruaha National Park you will be able to see the big four and large group of hippos along the ruaha river. However, there are other attractions such as historical sites, lakes, beaches, mountains and rivers just to mention a few which are located in Kilwa, Bagamoyo, Unguja, Pemba, Iringa, Mafia and Mbeya.

Undisturbed Miombo Woodland at Nyera Kipelele Forest Reserve in Lindi (Dry season) Photo credit: Greyson Nyamoga (2015)

The country is endowed with different types of forest resources with a total area of about 48 Million Hectares. According to the recent National Forestry Resources and Management Inventory (NAFORMA) which was conducted by the government of Tanzania, the different types of forest covers about 54% of the total land area in the country. The main forest and woodland types includes the miombo woodland, woodland mosaics, mangrove and the closed canopy forest (Tropical/Rain forest). The miombo woodland covers about 51% of the land area in the Mainland Tanzania. While National Parks are all owned by the state, forests are either owned or managed by the central government, local government, villages, individuals/private and other forests are located in the general land where everyone can have access.

Forest industry in Tanzania

The forest industry is an important sector in the country providing both direct and indirect livelihoods to local communities and hence contributing to the national income. From the different types of forest, people obtain a variety of products such as sawnwood, fuel wood (charcoal and firewood), medicinal plants, meat through hunting wild animals, fodder for livestock, tannis, honey, beeswax, fibres, gums etc. Studies have indicated that more than 90% of the population in Tanzania use fuelwood (charcoal and firewood) as a main source of energy with the estimated percapita consumption of about 1m3. Most of these fuelwood are supplied from the miombo woodlands which as stated earlier covers about half of the forest area in mainland Tanzania.

Degraded Miombo Woodland at Doma Area – Morogoro (Charcoal Production) Photo credit: Greyson Nyamoga (2015)

The population in the country grow at an average of about 2.9% per annum while the economy is growing at about 2.7% per annum. This population growth rate is big enough to cause a substantial increase in demand of different forest products in the country. It is this high dependence on fuelwood which cause a significant rate of deforestation in the country.

READ ALSO: Optimal level of deforestation

The combined effect of these factors i.e. high population growth, economic growth and high dependence on fuelwood may have severe negative impact to the forests in future. It is reasonable to think that there is no way we can control deforestation since majority depend on it for sawnwood production as well as main source of energy for cooking.  However, the future opportunity costs for doing nothing now may be substantial.

The enormous importance of fuelwood as energy source

Among other factors, the high dependence on fuelwood is due to high prices of the alternative energy sources such as gas, electricity and kerosene. Different option have been proposed to reduce the high dependence on fuelwood in order to protect forests and manage it sustainably. Some researchers have proposed subsidization of the alternative energy sources and equipment to make the price and initial installing costs affordable especially for the low-income groups. Others are proposing that the government and environmental non-governmental organization should focus on promoting the use of improved cooking stove which will in turn reduce the demand of fuelwood and hence lowering the supply from the forest in a long run.

READ ALSO: Illegal logging costs between 30 and 100 billion USD annualy

These initiatives might seem very expensive for the government but continuing with the business as usual may have a high opportunity costs in the future. In one of my study, I conducted to determine charcoal consumption in three urban centers, it was evident that even rich families use different energy sources for different purposes but charcoal was among the mostly used energy for cooking. The same reason that other energy sources like electricity and gas are expensive was mentioned by most of these households. These findings should remind us that something need to be done especially for charcoal production and consumption which evidently seems to be increasing in the country. There is no one shoe fits all solution but at least we have to start slowly and grow as we continue while encouraging other stakeholders to join the race.

Improved Charcoal Cooking Stoves Developed by Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organization – TaTEDO. Photo credit: Greyson Nyamoga (2015).

Clean energy can help forests

In my opinion, I think that policy measures coupled with technological change or advancement which will lower the dependence on fuelwood may have a significant impact on forest conservation in the country. Although large-scale subsidization of alternative energy sources might be costly but starting small can be more effective than waiting for a big start which is uncertain.

READ ALSO: Forest-biodiversity-loss harms us all!

However, the promotion of improved cooking stove in all the regions in the country seems to be the best feasible solution for the time being. Development of different alternative income generating activities and investments to improve the livelihood of people is also important. With medium and high-income population, it is expected that households will automatically shift to the improved and clean energy sources such as electricity and gas. Combined effort from all stakeholder is therefore important in order to join hands with the government initiatives to conserve different types of forests in the Country.


Greyson Z. Nyamoga

Nyamoga is a PhD Student in Forest and Resource Economics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management. In his PhD, Nyamoga is developing a Forest Sector Model for Tanzania. He earned his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Forestry and Forestry (Forest Economics) respectively at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania. He did another Master Degree in Sustainable Development Practices (MDP) in the United States of America at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. He worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania as Forest Officer and later moved to Sokoine University of Agriculture as Faculty member. He is married to Rosemary with two daughters Glory and Genevieve. His hobbies are singing, listening gospel music, Watching African Movies, watching and playing Football (SOKA)


Main photo: Degraded Miombo Woodland at Doma Area – Morogoro (Charcoal Production). Photo credit: Greyson Nyamoga (2015)

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