Deforestation In Tanzania

Tanzania’s government has been urged to embrace sustainable charcoal production to protect the country’s forest cover amidst failed attempts to abolish the local charcoal trade.

“Biomass [charcoal] is a predominant source of energy, we should think of a way to make it safer and sustainable instead of banning it,” Lubera Mato, an environmental expert from Tanzania’s Ardhi University, told IPS.

The government estimates between 130,000 and 500,000 hectares of forests are being destroyed every year due to charcoal production, poor farming and overgrazing. According to the Bank of Tanzania, the country loses around five million dollars a year in unpaid timber royalties.

This East African nation has 33.5 million hectares of forests, of which about 13 million hectares have been gazetted as national reserves. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the random cutting of trees for timber and charcoal are among the major drivers of deforestation here.

“You cannot ban what is essentially the only available energy for cooking in urban areas without providing a feasible alternative,” Tuyeni Mwampamba, a Tanzania scholar who has researched the local charcoal trade, told IPS.

The 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey states that firewood and charcoal combined account for 94.6 percent of the country’s cooking energy.

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.

According to the World Bank, the annual charcoal trade here is worth 650 million dollars. The Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) — an agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism — says the country’s forest cover is under enormous pressure due to the expansion of agricultural activities, livestock grazing, wild fires  and other human activity.