Community-based forest management
In 2004, I co-founded the NGO, Mpingo Conservation Project, now Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI).
At MCDI, we work with rural villages in Tanzania, supporting them to engage in Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM). Under Tanzania’s 1998 forest policy, once communities have established Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) within the CBFM framework, they have the rights to sustainably harvest and sell products from within these local protected areas.
Photo: Miombo woodland © Geoff Gallice from Gainesville, FL, USA (CC by 2.0)
This was very much untested territory in Tanzania back when we started in 2004 and there was scepticism even among local government that this new CBFM approach could work: it was thought that rural communities didn’t have the level of education or capacity to be entrusted with managing forest resources sustainably. But we persisted.
Five years later in 2009, we proudly announced the first VLFR in Kilwa District, located in Kikole village. In the same year, we also supported the first ever commercial timber harvest from a VLFR in Tanzania, earning the village 100 times more per cubic meter of mpingo wood than they would have generated without their forest reserve.
What is mpingo?
Mpingo is an extremely dense and dark, almost black, hardwood that is prized internationally for its turning and tonal qualities.
It is these qualities that make mpingo an excellent material for woodwind musical instruments, such as clarinets and oboes, as well as for fingerboards on professional grade violins.
Regrettably, these qualities of mpingo have also led to its steady demise – the species has now become commercially extinct in Kenya and, far from its former distribution across East Africa, the tree now only grows in meaningful numbers in Southern Tanzania and Northern Mozambique.