The Restoration Initiative (TRI) Tanzania Project Coordinator at the vice president’s office Dr Damas William Mapunda and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) TRI Technical Advisor Doyi Mazenzele in an interview with The EastAfrican correspondent Jasper A. Kwayu provided a firsthand account on the extensive work undertaken in this project, its achievements, strategies and transformative impact on local communities and ecosystems.
Doyi, as the technical advisor for TRI Tanzania, could you tell us about the technical and policy baseline studies conducted as part of this project?
Certainly. The baseline studies were a crucial starting point for our project. We delved into an extensive analysis of policy and regulatory frameworks related to sustainable landscape restoration initiatives in Tanzania.
This provided us with a deep understanding of the relevancy, strengths, and gaps and allowed us to generate concrete recommendations for ensuring national are supportive of SLR. Furthermore, we conducted a Restoration Opportunity Assessment (Roa) to assess the potential for restoration in various areas and to define priority restoration interventions and sites.
We also undertook a comprehensive baseline study to understand the level of community and key actor participation in sustainable landscape restoration. These studies served as the foundation for our informed decision-making on policy enhancements and restoration planning.
We also conducted an environmental and social safeguard assessment to ensure that our restoration efforts aligned with environmental and social priorities. This was a crucial step to ensure our work was not only ecologically sustainable but also socially responsible. As a result, we were able to significantly refine strategies on forest management, beekeeping, community-based forest management, and carbon trading, aligning them more closely with sustainable landscape restoration objectives.
Dr Mapunda, can you tell us more about the sustainable land management initiatives undertaken in this project?
Of course. Sustainable land management is a cornerstone of our efforts. We initiated the preparation of Village Land Use Plans for 15 villages, which are vital for regulating land use and protecting natural resources. We also trained 15 Village Land Use Management teams to oversee these plans effectively.
To support local farmers, we provided valuable knowledge through training of 2,459 farmers in the target landscapes on Climate-Smart Agriculture practices including System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which is water efficiency and adapting to changing climatic conditions and boosting productivity.
Moreover, we established 31 Farmer Field Schools which promotes better farming practices across the seven district councils, which strengthen local capacity for sustainable land management, offering practical training and guidance to farmers.
Additionally, we facilitated the surveys of 15 micro-irrigation schemes, which not only improve water usage efficiency but also enhance land productivity. This is crucial for promoting sustainable agricultural practices and ensuring food security in the target landscapes and districts.
Dr Mapunda, how has TRI contributed to sustainable forest management and reforestation?
Sustainable forest management and reforestation are at the core of our project. We've identified and demarcated 16 community forests, covering a substantial 22,971 hectares. In these areas, we planted an impressive 304,760 different species of trees in degraded forest areas, around water sources, and on farmlands. This has been instrumental in increasing forest cover and biodiversity.
We've also established 12 tree nurseries where 1,006,836 seedlings were grown. This commitment to reforestation is a significant step towards restoring and sustaining forests in the region. To protect these efforts, we placed 186 beacons to demarcate community forests and water sources and constructed 17,870 meters of firebreaks around forest areas in Sumbawanga and Mbarali District Councils. These firebreaks are essential for safeguarding against wildfires, which can pose a severe threat to reforestation efforts and the environment as a whole.
Dr Mapunda, could you elaborate on the sustainable livestock management aspects of TRI Tanzania?
Certainly. Sustainable livestock management is integral to the overall landscape restoration goals. We trained 684 livestock keepers in sustainable livestock management practices. This training focuses on sustainable and ethical approaches to livestock rearing that harmonize with landscape restoration objectives.
To further support the livestock sector, we constructed three cattle dips in strategic locations in Mbeya, Iringa, and Sumbawanga. These facilities are essential for maintaining the health and well-being of livestock, which is an important source of livelihood for many in the region.
We also established 15 pasture demonstration plots across seven districts. These plots serve as platforms for promoting sustainable livestock practices and contribute to the well-being of both the livestock and the environment. Ensuring that livestock management aligns with landscape restoration is critical for TRI's success.
Dr Mapunda, how has TRI Tanzania promoted alternative income generation activities, and what impact has it had?
Promoting alternative income generation activities has been a vital component of our project. We identified 35 community groups and provided them with training to establish and manage various alternative income-generating activities. These activities include beekeeping, dairy cow, goat, pig, and poultry farming, as well as the establishment of milk collection centers.
To support these endeavors, we procured 682 beehives and associated equipment for these community groups. This not only offers sustainable income sources but also promotes environmental conservation. By diversifying income streams for local communities, we've helped improve livelihoods and create economic opportunities, particularly for the households whose livelihoods depended on natural resources hence reducing the pressure.
Dr Mapunda, could you share more about TRI's work on water sources and how it addresses water scarcity?
Securing water sources such as catchment areas, wetlands, rivers, and lakes and their buffer zones. Addressing water scarcity is a critical aspect of our project. We constructed three deep wells with associated infrastructure, which has significantly increased access to clean water in project areas. This is crucial for both local communities and livestock and thus minimizes the risk of degrading water catchment areas and the surrounding ecosystems.
In Mpimbwe District Council, the project has expanded the water supply network with a total length of 6.4 kilometers that benefits 1,750 households in four villages, significantly alleviating water scarcity issues. We also conducted surveys to identify suitable areas for the construction of charcoal dams, ensuring a more reliable water supply for local communities. Access to clean and reliable water is fundamental to the well-being of communities and the success of our restoration efforts.
Dr Mapunda, how has TRI addressed energy conservation, and what are the benefits of energy-saving technologies?
Energy conservation is another vital component of our project. We supported the installation of energy-saving cookstoves to 50 public institutions with high consumption of fuel wood and charcoal and 1,080 pilot households. These cook-stoves promote sustainable energy usage and reduce the reliance on traditional, less efficient stoves.
Additionally, we trained 630 individuals in fabricating and selling energy-saving cookstoves. This not only creates economic opportunities but also contributes to reduced deforestation, GHG emission and public health. By encouraging the use of more efficient and eco-friendly cooking technologies, we're making a positive impact on the environment and local livelihoods.
Doyi, can you tell us about TRI's communication, knowledge management strategies and plans?
Certainly. To ensure the effective implementation of our project, we've finalised the preparation of our project's Communication Strategy and the Knowledge Management (KM) Plan. These plans are instrumental in enhancing knowledge dissemination and stakeholder engagement.
By having a clear communication strategy and a knowledge management plan in place, we can effectively share information and engage with all stakeholders involved in sustainable landscape restoration. This ensures that our efforts are well-coordinated, and that knowledge is shared efficiently, making our project more effective and impactful.
Doyi, how has TRI promoted cross-sectoral coordination mechanisms, and what has been their impact?
Cross-sectoral coordination is critical for our holistic approach. The project has established various coordination bodies, including the Project Steering Committee (PSC), the Project Technical Advisory Committee (Tac), the National Sustainable Landscape Restoration (SLR) Working Group, seven District SLR Working Groups, two Basin SLR Working Groups, and seven District Project Implementation Teams. These mechanisms have significantly promoted inter-sectoral collaboration while reducing competing and divergent interests and priorities.
Through these coordination bodies, we've been able to ensure that restoration efforts are mainstreamed and harmonized across all relevant sectors. This holistic approach is crucial for addressing complex environmental challenges effectively. It allows us to bring together different stakeholders, expertise, and resources to work towards a common goal.
Dr Mapunda, could you tell us about the beneficiaries of TRI and the impact on their lives?
Our project has made a significant impact on the ground. The project targets to benefit more than 100,000 households. Four the past two years of project implementation a total of 84,016 community members have directly benefited from our initiatives. To put this into perspective, it equates to approximately 21,004 standard Tanzanian households. Importantly, around 40 percent of these beneficiaries are women, underscoring our commitment to gender-inclusive development.
The beneficiaries have enjoyed improved livelihoods, enhanced income opportunities, better access to water, and technology adoption to promote sustainable agricultural practices. By directly impacting the lives of local communities, we're working towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for Tanzania and its people.
Lastly, what are key milestones attained in 2023?
The number of policies adopted to support forest and landscape restoration are four (4). The area of land under restoration is 25,000 ha while the area of land under improved management is 34,115 ha. In addition, the value of resources for forest & landscape restoration is $750,000.