Friday, May 12, 2017

Dar bans forest product export to curb deforestation

Threatened by imminent total destruction of its forests, Tanzania has embarked on a programme to strengthen conservation of some of its key natural vegetation that are overwhelmed with the wantonly tree felling for timber and wood fuel.  Under the programme, the government has finally banned with immediate effect the exportation of wood and charcoal with a view to restore forestation so as to protect the East African nation from turning into desert. The move is to curb the increased phenomenon of the wanton tree felling which continues unabatedly with exporters not adhering to country’s policies. The continued random cutting of trees for timber and charcoal are among the major drivers that causes deforestation. Statistics by the Tanzania Forests Services Agency (TFSA), a government agency responsible for monitoring the country's forestry activities, shows that, more than 370,000 hectares (915,000 acres) of forests are being cut annually in the country to burn charcoal. The Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Prof Jumanne Maghembe says that the new directives would end commercial exploitation of wood which has already threatened sustainability of forest and nature in the country. The Ministry’s report shows that Tanzania has 33.5 million hectares of forests, of which about 13 million hectares have been gazetted as national game reserves. “From now onwards no one is allowed to cut and transport wood or charcoal outside the district of origin,” Prof Maghembe directed the Tanzanian Forest Service (TFS), a semi-autonomous government Executive Agency mandated to manage the national forest reserves. Prof. Maghembe further directed TSF officials to collaborate with district commissioners countrywide in supervising the execution of the directive as Tanzania is witnessing environmental burdens as a result of excessive tree cutting. Some charcoal traders in the city of Dar es Salaam have raised a grave concern saying that the government’s plan, however, would affect many thousands of people who use charcoal as their main source of cooking energy or earn a living from producing or selling it. 

An Unidentified man carries a sack of charcoal at a trading market in Gongo la Mboto located on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam city.

"If the government doesn't want people to use charcoal, what else should we use for cooking?" asked one famous charcoal trader Bakari Mwenda based in Gongo La Mboto on the outskirts of the city. Many poor households across Tanzania’s main cities and towns look to forests as a source of income, harvesting trees to supply growing markets for charcoal and timber. Available statistics shows that, two million tonnes of charcoal are being consumed in Tanzania each year, roughly half of it is being supplied in most Dar es Salaam’s markets. Statistics by the World Bank shows that, charcoal industry in Tanzania generates an estimated $ 650 million a year, employing hundreds of thousands of people as producers and transporters, as well as manufacturers and retailers of charcoal stoves. The National Energy Policy 2015 says that, although Tanzania has many energy sources, including natural gas and solar power, charcoal, firewood and other biomass sources still account for 85 percent of total cooking energy consumption. The policy has affirmed that, the increased charcoal consumption which is high particularly in urban areas, has nearly doubled over the past decade as a result of rapid urbanization and scarcity of affordable alternatives for other energy uses. The policy further says that, the demand of charcoal fuel in the country is expected to double from the current 2.3 million tonnes a year by 2030. A government push over the last decade to use more natural gas for cooking has had some successes, with demand increasing from about 24,000 metric tonnes in 2011 to 69,000 in 2015. The country uses over one million tonnes of charcoal annually, half of which is consumed by households in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania has been using approximately 87 million cubic metres of trees for charcoal and firewood when only 64 million cubic metres per year is allowed.

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