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Forests Can Save Kilimanjaro Region

Global warming has not spared Kilimanjaro Region, home to the highest mountain in Africa and sadly, human activities play part in it. The once greenish region that had attracted a lot of holiday makers and had water streams flowing all over the place, has now become somehow semi arid. As a result, Moshi Municipal dwellers are forced to grapple with water rationing, something they have never experienced before. The climate change has not been taken lightly by regional authorities.

They have worked out new methods to help cope with the climate change and bring back the good old days. Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Leonidas Gama who has a passion for conservation has been at the forefront in the fight against degradation. Mr. Gama says one of the biggest challenges as far as environment is concerned is the size of the region and the big population.

Kilimanjaro is the second small Region on the Mainland, with a size of 13,209 square kilometres but is third in terms of population growth (1,640,087) according to the 2012 census.

“The small size of the region compared to the big number of people is our main challenge as we strive to make sure the environment is not damaged,” says Mr Leonidas.

The region decided to halt tree felling and transportation of wood products.

Leaders, including executives and several stakeholders in the region held a meeting to discuss the environmental situation and how to address the challenges. Mr Gama says the proposals from the stakeholders were forwarded to Regional Consultative Committee (RCC).

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“The RCC decision was to stop forthwith issuing permits to loggers and halt transportation of wood products even from privately owned farms. “People were directed to get their forest needs from government owned forests of Rongai and West Kilimanjaro.

The decisions that were participatory are being implemented until now,” says the RC. Another strategy was to start a tree planting campaign during long rainy seasons so as to revive the vegetation that used to thrive some decades back.

In 2011/12 the target was to plant 7,000,000 trees but managed 83% of that; in 2012/13 they set themselves to plant 12,901,937 trees but managed 62% and this financial year the target is 11,000,000 trees whereby the planting exercise is going on.

There have been operations to nab environmental degradation suspects in which 12 people were arrested, 3,889 logs, four polls, four chainsaws and three seesaws were impounded.

Kilimanjaro also aims to reduce the use of forest products in cooking.

The regional government has instructed municipal and district councils to make available to citizens special stoves that use briquettes instead of firewood or charcoal. The Acting Project Supervisor for Sustainable Land management (SLM) Mr Damas Masologo says they have done research on how to avoid using wood and its products in cooking.

The four-year project that started in 2010 has come up with alternative source of energy technology and already 224 households, to start with, have been selected. He concedes, however, that they face several challenges in implementation of the project as some people have little understanding of the need to conserve environment by adopting alternative source of power.

The region got an upper hand as far as alternative source of power is concerned because Kilimanjaro Industrial Development Trust (KIDT) is set to double its briquette production to two tonnes a day. A stakeholder in this, as it has been in many other projects is Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that donated a 100 million/- briquette production machine to KIDT.

The General Manager of KIDT, Engineer Frank Elisa says briquettes locally known as ‘kuni bora’ are made from sawdust or grain chaff, particularly paddy. They are compressed to form blocks and a piece is enough to cook a family meal in a short period of time. Moshi Municipal Director, Mr Shaaban Ntarambe says they are poised to start using the special stoves but are looking for the types that will suit urban dwellers whose houses differ from those in rural areas.

Mr Ntarambe says the type they have been introduced to costs 400,000/- and are still looking for ways to cut costs. “We want affordable and manageable stoves so we did not want to risk in this. We have been very careful and hopefully in a few days we will have everything in place ,” says Mr Shaaban.

Moshi District Executive Director, Mr Fulgence Mponji says they have registered an increase in use of alternative power at household level, in institutions and industries. That biomass was well done and citizens were trained on how to use biogas and briquettes.

He says 20 stoves were installed in 20 households. “Use of alternative power will help in conserving the environment,” says Mr Mponji. It will be easier for other households to learn because construction of the stoves will take place in groups.

Money set for this project is 13,585,600/-. Members of Parliamentary Committee of Land, Natural Resources and Environment are deeply moved about the project but are wary of its delay. Chairman of the Committee, Mr James Lembeli cannot comprehend why the use of briquettes has been so much delayed while environmental degradation pace is alarming.

Another member of the committee, Ms Grace Kiwelu (Special Seats – Chadema) wondered what kind of advice they are waiting to get from the Regional Government. Mr Lembeli warns against bureaucracy and forms an opinion that Regional Government should endorse types of stoves that councils have proposed because they know better what suits their people.

To the rescue of the Regional Government and in showing that there is no bureaucracy, Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS), Dr Faisal Issa says there are many things to be looked at, including the use of gas stoves. The Deputy Minister of State in Vice President’s Office (Environment), Ms Ummy Ally Mwalimu commended environmental conservation efforts in Kilimanjaro, but wondered how long would the ‘time frame’ take.

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Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservationreforestationurban forestrycarbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management is critical to the survival of entire ecosystemsSacred Seedlings is a charitable division of Crossbow Communications.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is the founder and Executive Director of Sacred Seedlings.