A Forest Resources Co-Management Strategy for Tanzania: A Study of West Usambara High Canopy Forests

Wllium Rugumamu


History reveals that for rural communities in the tropics, forestland management has been, and still is, part and parcel of rural livelihoods-caring for trees for present and future generations.  Forest tenurial systems in Tanzania have, up till now, been a replica of the colonial legacy.  This article contributes to achieving sustainable forest resources development through a community - based resources co-management with the government in the West Usambara high canopy forests in northeastern Tanzania.  The strategy is designed to accelerate the forest tenure reform process.  The study focuses on the East Usambara forests.  Ecologically, they belong to the Tropical Rain Forests of Tanzania, otherwise referred to as the Tropical High Forests which are important locally, nationally and globally for their cultural functions, as well as for sources of timber and non-wood products, conservation of catchment areas, and as a genetic pool of valuable species.  Preliminary research findings reveal that a  co-management  of forestland between the stakeholders and the Government is an amicable solution to the existing tenurial conflicts.   This alternative tenure regime – though a sensitive issue amongst some government officials – is  but a novel strategy for local communities.  Hence, by empowering rural communities to make rational decisions through provision of education and other resources concerning forest conservation, it is hoped that they will gain more economic interest in protecting forestlands and increasing their productivity.  It is proposed that Participatory rural appraisal tools, when applied to local communities, will enable them to scientifically care for  the forests; and by the same token become resource stewards.  By working at the grassroots level, it is anticipated that promotion of the productivity of forests and reduction of environmental hazards might be intrinsically linked to improved quality of life of local communities which are stewards of forest resources.

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