Insight - Forests and Miombo Woodlands in Tanzania

Insight: Tanzania Forests and Miombo Woodlands Facts

Summary of Miombo Woodlands

Tanzania’s Miombo woodlands and forests span 38.8 million hectares, equivalent to about 40.4 % of the country’s total land area. 13 million hectares of this land have been designated as forest reserves, with around 1.6 million hectares of forest reserves gazetted under water catchment management. The most common forest type in the nation is woodland, covering vast regions in the west and south. The types of land use in the country are smallholder agriculture (4.1%), large-scale agriculture (0.6%), woodlands and forests (40.4%), grazing land (46.9%), inland waters (6.3%), and urban development land (1.7%).

Secondary Miombo forests are forests that have largely regenerated via natural processes following significant natural and human disturbances of the original forest vegetation and have a significant difference in the structure of the forest and the composition of canopy species compared to neighbouring primary forests on identical sites. This research has addressed five different types of secondary forests based on this definition.

The renowned Miombo woods are among the country’s post-extraction secondary forests. They are situated practically everywhere in Tanzania, at altitudes spanning from 300 to 1300 meters depending on the weather. They are usually managed to ensure that fine hardwood is available to cater for the domestic demand for products that are wood-based. Miombo woodlands are further famous for beekeeping, charcoal production and hunting.

In Tanzania’s vegetation distribution map, the Swidden fallow secondary forests are comparable to Miombo woodland with dispersed cropland. It is mostly found on the country’s drier central plateau, along the central rail line. They sustain construction poles and fuel extraction, which are critical inputs for the livelihoods of the communities adjacent to the forest.

Due to shifting cultivation and overgrazing, the rehabilitated secondary Miombo woods are predominantly degraded fields. These can be found in the Shinyanga and Dodoma areas of Tanzania. Tanzania’s government is investing heavily in the restoration of vegetation on bare lands and gullies. Due to the fact that these regions are recovering from being overgrazed, forests found in this category are primarily utilized as fodder crops and firewood by people living nearby.

There are also a number of bylaws in place to regulate wildfires, shifting cultivation, as well as other known deforestation drivers.

Secondary Miombo forests recovering from fires occupy a huge area, with much of it resulting from overgrazing and periodic fires. In the semi-arid western, southern and central parts of the nation, the vast savanna woodlands provide a post-fire secondary zone with a great potential for forestry as a key productive activity. However, this category includes enormous swaths of land that are controlled game regions. Other than that, grazing is a major activity in this forest type, which is more commonly seen as potential rangeland.

Wildfires in Miombo woodlands
Wildfires in Miombo woodlands

Post-abandonment secondary Miombo forests are often arid lands with little regeneration potential. They are utilized as rangelands in central Tanzania and as prospective cropland in southern Tanzanian by local populations.

To effectively manage secondary Miombo forests, a variety of approaches have been considered. These are inclusive of the traditional woodland management approach, in which a forest manager plans and manages a woodland in isolation, as well as participatory forest management, which is a strategy for achieving sustainable forest management by promoting woodland management by involving communities that live near forest resources. Whatever method is used, these woods continue to face issues such as land degradation, deforestation, and a lack of inventory data for management and planning. Land degradation and deforestation are caused by a variety of factors, including lack of planning for land use and insecure land tenure.

Some proposals for sustainable secondary Miombo forest management have been made; the highlights are listed below.

  • Secondary Miombo forests have been neglected in the past due to a strategy that prioritized the maintenance of fast-growing exotic forests to supply the country’s industrial wood needs. Since this is no longer the case, FBD should utilize this circumstance to improve how these forests are managed.
  • Because the majority of land degradation and deforestation occurs in non-reserved forests, establishing clear legal ownership should be a given top priority.

Introduction – Miombo Woodland in Tanzania

Tanzania’s Miombo woodlands and forests span 38.8 million hectares or about 40.4% of the country’s total land area. 13 million hectares of this land have been designated as forest reserves, including around 1.6 million hectares of forest reserves under water catchment management. Woodlands and Forests in Tanzania and beyond provide a wide range of services and goods to both urban and rural people. They conserve biological variety, water, protect the ecosystem, and offer habitat for wildlife. However, degradation and deforestation are occurring in these woodlands and forests. According to current estimations, unsustainable use of forestlands, such as unsustainable livestock grazing, agricultural practices, wildfires, and other factors produce a deforestation rate of 91,276 hectares per year (FBD, 2000a). Over 66% of the total area under forestation is currently under general land, and owing to a lack of accountable institutions, these forests are rapidly degraded and deforested via socio-economic activities.

With approximately 1,000 mm of yearly rainfall, the country features closed evergreen forests in mountain zones of high altitude (Kilimanjaro, the Southern Highlands and the Eastern Arc). With stocking levels ranging from 200 to 400 m3/ha, these woods offer a high level of biodiversity. Miombo woodland is the most common forest type in the nation, encompassing considerable regions in the west and south. The stocking rate is approximated to be 20 to 100 m3/ha. The yearly increase in harvestable volume in the forests is anticipated to be around 70 million m3, whereas annual wood extraction is estimated to be around 30 million m3. Because of the poor rainfall and scant vegetation especially in central Tanzania, the distribution of wood growth is uneven.

Tanzania’s population is approximated to be 32 million people, with a 2.8 per cent yearly growth rate (pers. com., NBS, 2000). The rate of urbanization is much higher. Population growth in some locations has a significant influence on Miombo woodland and forest resources, notably in terms of household fuel. In general, forests in close proximity to densely inhabited and accessible places are over-exploited, but significant sections of woodlands in isolated locations remain untapped.

Smallholder agriculture (4.1%), grazing land (46.9%), large-scale agriculture (0.6%), Miombo woodlands and forests (40.4%), inland waterways (6.3%) and urban development land (1.7%) are the different forms of land use in Tanzania (TFAP, 1989).

The forestry industry makes a considerable contribution to the country’s economy. Wildlife and Forestry are anticipated to contribute roughly 3.3% to GDP and nearly 10% of the nation’s registered exports, as per the National Bureau of Statistics. However, the lack of significant records of wood fuel usage in rural regions has led to the underestimation of the sector’s true contribution. Furthermore, the value of other woodland products that are sold informally is not considered. Tanzania’s bioenergy usage is projected to account for over 92% of the total energy usage. Sawn wood is the most common industrial wood product, and it is mostly used in the construction, furniture and joinery sectors. The number of end-users is rapidly increasing, and demand for sawn wood is expected to increase twofold in the next 10 years. The annual usage per capita is approximated to be 1 m3. The forestry industry employs 730,000 people (Ngaga, 1998). Furthermore, a substantial number of individuals work in the informal economy, such as the charcoal industry.

In 1998, the Tanzanian government adopted a revamped National Forest Policy that took into account national social and macroeconomic policies, in addition to other sectoral policies aimed at achieving long-term sustainability. The purpose of the updated Forest Policy is to improve the forest sector’s contribution to Tanzania’s sustainable development, as well as the management and conservation of the country’s natural resources for future and current generations.

This nation report attempts to summarize current information, as well as the ecologic and socioeconomic significance of the country’s many types of secondary Miombo forests.

Men cutting Miombo trees in Tanzania for charcoal
Men cutting Miombo trees in Tanzania for charcoal

Types of Miombo Woodlands and Forests in Tanzania

Closed Miombo Forests

Tanzania has a variety of closed Miombo forest types.

  • True closed Miombo forests are separated into low-altitude (lowland) and high-altitude (montane) forests, and then further categorized by the amount of moisture they contain (Dallu, 1989). Closed forests cover around 2.4 million hectares. Upland rain forests are found from up to 1,500 meters above sea level, with a well-distributed annual rainfall of over 1500 mm. Examples can be found at Magamba, Kilimanjaro, the West Usambara Mountains, Pare Mountains, Nguru, Rungwe, and Uluguru. Albizia gummifera, Ocotea usambarensis, Croton megalocarpus and Olea capensis are the common tree species found in these forests. The lowland rain forest may be found from the coast to about 1,200 meters above sea level, with annual rainfall over 1500 mm, evenly dispersed throughout the year, evergreen trees, and high temperatures. Newtonia buchananii, Parinari excelsa and Allanblackia stuhlmanni are examples found in East Usambara Mountains, Kwamkoro region, Kimboza on Uluguru Mountains’ foot slopes and the Udzungwa escarpment’s lower slopes. This type of forest typically has several endemic tree species; however, scattered remnants of the original forests are all that remain.
  • Riverine forests can be found in patches along river banks, lakes or streams, or surrounding springs near their sources. It might be deciduous, evergreen, or a combination of the two. Khaya nyasica, Tamarindus indica and Milicia excelsa are some examples found in abundance in a low-rainfall section of the Kilombero valley. The composition varies widely from one location to the next (Holmes, 1995).
  • Mangroves are adapted to salty water, and they occupy waterlogged soil that is either permanently flooded or at high tide. They are found along Tanzania’s coastal stretch from Mtwara to Tanga, with the Rufiji delta having the largest concentration. Mangroves cover around 157,000 acres of land in the country, according to the most recent inventory. Lumnitzera recemosa, Rhizophora mucronata and Xylocarpus benadirensis, are the most common species found here.

Miombo Woodland

The major vegetation cover in Tanzania is woodland. Brachystegia and Acacia are the two major tree genera in Africa’s dry woodlands and grasslands. Open to closed miombo woods are dominated by Brachystegia species, whereas savanna (open) woodlands are dominated by Acacia species (Eliapenda, 2000).

  • Miombo or closed (broadleaved) woodland are found all across Tanzania at elevations ranging between 300 to 1300 meters, depending on the climate. Although crowns might be close to each other, the canopy is not continuous. The majority of trees have a single stem and are either evergreen, deciduous or semi-evergreen. They are found in both undulating and flat terrain. The western zone (Kigoma, Tabora, and Rukwa) and the southern zone (Ruvuma, Lindi and Mtwara) have the highest densities of this formation countrywide. Jubernardia spp. and Brachystegia spp. are the most common species. Pterocarpus angolensis (mninga), Afzelia quanzesis and Albizia spp. are some of the other species found in this group. The most valuable of these is Mninga, but it rarely occurs in large quantities (TFAP, 1989). Closed woodland covers about 5.7 million hectares, (Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, MNRT, 1997). There are large sections of general lands (which are non-gazetted) that are not properly managed, and harvesting of trees is done without monitoring. During the dry season, wildfires are widespread in these woods, and miombo trees germinate well after a fire.
  • Savanna or open woodlands are generally seen as a hybrid of grassland and closed woodland. Grass predominates above trees. With a total size of over 24.7 million hectares, open woodland is found practically everywhere in the country (Mbegu and Mlenge 1984; MNRT, 1997). Afrormosia spp., Albizia spp., Acacia spp., Terminallia spp., and Combretum spp., are all common species of trees in this formation. Fires are common in the open woodland with vast tracts being converted to farmland grazing land. Other features are almost identical to those of a closed forest (TFAP, 1989).

Most of the species in the miombo woodlands shed off their leaves during the dry season, but flush before it ends as they have deep taproots that can access deep soil nutrients and moisture. Flowering takes place all year, with a peak between August and November. Fruit production is erratic in many species, and seed dormancy is uncommon. Seed germination usually happens during the wet season, shortly after dispersal. Seed mortality may be significant during germination and the 1st year of growth, although the rates of germination are good. Seedlings develop slowly at first because they devote more biomass to the growth of roots. Recurrent dieback produced by both fire and drought also hinders shoot growth. Miombo regenerates after felling from coppicing stumps, stunted seedlings and roots in the herb layer. In the initial regrowth, regeneration from seedlings accounts for more than half of the tree density. For sapling growth, most species need high-intensity light. During regrowth, fire and competition minimize tree density. Many of the miombo woodland’s silvicultural traits include adaptations to felling, fire, and drought. (Chidumayo, 1992).

Secondary Miombo Forest Characteristics and Extension

Secondary Miombo forests are defined in the Workshop’s Terms of Reference (ToR) as forests that regenerate largely through natural processes after significant human and/or natural disturbance of the original forest vegetation at a single point in time or over a long period, and display a significant difference in forest structure and/or canopy species composition compared to nearby primary forests on similar sites (Chokkalingam and De Jong, 2001). The many varieties of secondary forest and woodland in Tanzania are detailed, along with a description of the typical primary forest associated with each if known.

Secondary Miombo Forests After Extraction

This category mostly contains closed Miombo forests where unrestricted wood harvesting occurred. The size of this type of secondary forest, as well as the structural composition and typical species of secondary forests within lowland, montane, lowland, riverine, and mangrove forest communities that distinguish it from primary forests, remain unclear. Savanna woodlands and secondary miombo would be more difficult to distinguish after extraction and would be included in after-fire secondary woodland communities.

Lyaruu et al. (2000) found that population numbers of species selectively taken for timber (such as Prunus africana, Podocarpus falcatus, Rapanea melanophloeos and Podocarpus latifolius) were low in a dry Afromontane Forest in Mafai, Central Tanzania. The most numerous tree species in the forest were non-timber species such as Drypetes reticulata, Albizia glaberrima, Ochna hosltii, Xymalos monospora Drypetes usambarica, and, Oxyanthus speciosus.

Prunus africana tree
Prunus africana tree

Swidden Fallow Secondary Woods

In most sections of Tanzania, shifting cultivation is used, including both commercial fallow and bush fallow. By definition, Swidden fallow secondary woods are similar to Miombo woodland with dispersed agriculture. Treetops are widely spread, with extensive undergrowth of shrubs or a grass cover that lacks bushes. Trees can be either evergreen or deciduous or a combination of the two. It may be found mostly on the country’s drier central plateau especially along the central railway line (Shinyanga and Singida regions). It thrives on flat to mildly sloping ground. Acacia spp.,Balanites spp., and Commiphora spp. are the most common species in this category, all of which have relatively poor regeneration capability. This type of forest is approximated to cover 6.9 million hectares.

Rehabilitated Secondary Miombo Forests

The climate in much of Central Tanzania is semi-arid, and the vegetation includes grasslands, scrubs and bushes, wooded grasslands, dry woodlands, thickets, as well as a few montane forests, with all of them being subject to different forms of vegetation and soil degradation. The main causes of vegetation deterioration in the region include deforestation, improper agriculture techniques, fires, overgrazing, and the collecting of wood for construction and fuel (Rapp et al. 1973; Dejene et al. 1997). Shifting agriculture and overgrazing have extensively ruined the lands in the Shinyanga and Dodoma areas. Livestock overstocking in relation to the Dodoma region’s carrying capacity has resulted in the formation of widespread gullies in the Kondoa district. The Kondoa Eroded Area (which is the only affected area) is approximated to be 125,550 hectares in size. Tanzania’s government is investing heavily in the restoration of vegetation on gullies and barren terrain. Natural regeneration of Acacia spp. and Miombo is aided by confining livestock, destocking, and preventing shifting agriculture. Multipurpose species such as Leucaena spp. and Cassia siamea are used for tree planting. The Kondoa Irangi Hills found in semi-arid parts of the country, which have been protected from 1979, has been the subject of several investigations. As per Backeus et al. 1994, prior to protection, the forests were exposed to extensive grazing, fuelwood harvesting, and hillside agriculture. Since then, there has been a slow partial return of the vegetation. Today, grassland and woodlands predominate. Acacia tortilis, Markhamia obtusifolia, A. seyal, A. nilota, A. senegal, Brachystegia spiciformis, Julbernardia globiflora, B. microphylla, Terminalia sericea, Markhamia obtusifolia, Euphorbia candelabrum and Combretum molle, are common trees in the woodlands. Treeless grasslands also arise as a result of recurrent fires (Backéus et al. 1994). Fuelwood cutting and grazing have been witnessed on a regular basis since 1995, despite the fact that the area is still protected. From 1995 to 1997, Eliapenda (2000) found that fire protection, human extraction of wood, and grazing raised the population density of Acacia seyal from 18 to 90%. The density of unprotected plots reduced by 8% to 33%. A comparatively large percentage of plants in the lower classes of stem size characterized the population structures, suggesting that the protection against firewood collection and grazing put in place in 1979 has benefitted the species. In the same region and period, Brachystegia spiciformis population density grew by 29% in protected plots and 5% in unprotected plots. The protected plots had significantly higher recruitment rates than the unprotected plots. In the Shinyanga area, overstocking has also been an issue. Furthermore, woodland clearing has been done in the past to remove tsetse fly. As a result, the region’s closed Miombo woodlands have devolved into semi-arid regions dominated by Acacia spp. and prickly bushes. Shinyanga’s degraded land, which is presently being rehabilitated, is approximated to be 504,200 hectares. The region’s geography is mostly flat.

Secondary Miombo Forests After a Fire

There is no evident differentiation between the open Miombo woodland and this group. However, these forests occupy substantial regions of Tanzania, with much of them resulting from overgrazing and recurrent fires. In various portions of Dodoma, Tabora, Morogoro and Singida regions, particularly at low altitudes, there is a considerable amount of post-fire secondary forest. Combretum spp. And afrormosia spp. are the most common species. In the dry season, great swaths of undulating lands are ravaged by annual fires. Cattle herders light fires after the foliage has dried to encourage the growth of new grass, while peasants utilize fire to prepare their agricultural plots. Forest fires are also caused by bee smoking. Grazing potential has been reduced and areas have been exposed to soil erosion in many situations as a result of these fires. At the start of the rainy season, however, the barren areas tend to recover fast into green landscapes. This is not unique to secondary forests; it is part of the wider dynamics of the savanna woodland. The issue here is that when the structural floristic composition of a woodland or forest depends on fire as a natural and regular activity, and fire has been exploited in such a way that the Miombo woodland or forest (closed or open) become degraded (to evolve into secondary woodland or forest, after the cause of deterioration by fire is eliminated).

Secondary Miombo Forests After Abandonment

There are two primary areas in the nation where post-abandonment secondary Miombo forests dominate the vegetation. Just before the independence, the colonial authority undertook a massive groundnut plan in central Tanzania’s Kongwa district, clearing enormous swaths of forest to make way for agricultural activity. The project was abandoned (dropped) for various a few years after it took off. A similar situation occurred in southern Tanzania when forests were removed to establish yet another groundnut plan in the Nachingwea district of the Lindi region. The project, once again, came to an end a few years after it began. The two locations mentioned above have been abandoned for a long time, allowing secondary woody growth to overrun the spaces. The forest cover in Dodoma’s Kongwa district has transitioned into a wooded grassland with dispersed cropland whereas Nachingwea has converted into vegetation that is similar to the open woods outlined above. These are mostly arid plains with little possibility for forest regrowth.

The Importance of Different Secondary Miombo Forest Types From a Socio-Economic and Ecological Point of View

There is no deliberate distinction made between the utilization of resources from secondary and main and secondary Miombo forests. As noted in section 2, commercial timber species can be found in the woodlands and forests. They are monitored to provide a steady supply of premium hardwoods to fulfil domestic demand for wood-based goods. In the woods, harvesting is a regular practice.

A number of licensed sawmills and pit sawyers are the main harvesters of timber. Pit sawing on its own supplies over half of the country’s entire wood need. Nonetheless, due to a lack of supervision in some places, unlawful harvesting continues. Sawn wood is the most significant industrial wood product, and it is primarily used in the construction, furniture and joinery industries. The miombo woodlands are also known for hunting, beekeeping and charcoal manufacturing across the country, however, the beekeeping business is mainly carried out in the Tabora region. In general, they are all revenue-generating initiatives aimed at improving the living circumstances of the local populations that live near Miombo woodlands.

Catchment Miombo forests are critical to the country’s socio-economic growth. They protect soils, manage water availability, and consolidate wildlife habitat. Catchment forests are recognized for their high levels of species endemism, this makes them important in providing a rich supply of genes for scientific research.

Mangroves are extremely productive ecosystems that not only supply a variety of important forest products but also help to keep coastal waterways productive and avoid coastal erosion. They naturally provide protection from a turbulent sea and help to mitigate storm damage. Mangroves are also vital for protecting the quality of inshore water and providing habitat for a variety of commercially valuable species including prawns. Many fish species, and crab oysters, use them as breeding and nursery sites. Many marine birds and other species use them as feeding and breeding places.

The harvest of building poles and fuelwood, which are vital inputs to the livelihoods of populations living near to woods, is sustained by the Swidden fallow secondary forests. Tanzania’s most significant wood commodity is fuelwood. Almost all types of secondary Miombo forests are used for fuelwood extraction. It is estimated that the country’s current consumption is around 32 million m3 (based on the premise that fuelwood usage is around 1 m3/person/year). Future levels of demand will be determined by income, population growth, as well as alternative energy sources. During the cold seasons, particularly in high altitude places, fuelwood is utilized for cooking as well as heating. In some sections of the nation, a small number of households use fuelwood for activities that generate income such as pot and making. Local communities, on the other hand, utilize poles to build shelters and houses. The potential for commercial wood extraction in the Swidden fallow secondary forests is quite low.

A typical and traditional ways most Tanzanias in rural areas fuel their cooking stoves - with wood
A typical and traditional ways most Tanzanias in rural areas fuel their cooking stoves – with wood

Secondary Miombo forests that have been rehabilitated are found in vulnerable areas that require careful resource management and planning to prevent a recurrence of land degradation. The existence of local populations depends on the development of sustainable land husbandry in fragile terrain (Eliapenda, 2000). People who live in and near these places use the vegetation as fuel and feed, and the communities often adopt zero-grazing to avoid land abuse (Backéus et al. 1994). By-laws have also been put in place to regulate shifting crops, wildfires, and other recognized deforestation drivers. Notable examples are two initiatives aimed at soil conservation HASHI and HADO in the Shinyanga and Dodoma areas respectively.

The semi-arid southern, central, and western regions of the nation have vast savanna woods, which form an after-fire secondary Miombo forest zone with significant capability for forestry as a core production activity but only in low population densities areas. Game managed zones and game reserves cover large swaths of territory in this category. Nonetheless, post-fire secondary forests yield a diverse spectrum of forest products. Fuelwood and building poles are the principal wood products, whereas non-wood products include honey production, thatching grass, fruits, and so on. These are collected for household use by communities living near woodlands. Grazing is a common practice in post-fire secondary woods, which are typically considered potential rangelands. Rangelands are managed by the Ministry of Water and Livestock Development. In the dry season, cattle herders travel from semi-arid portions of the nation to places where there is abundant fodder. Cattle are kept as a source of revenue in Tanzania, while some tribes see them as a symbol of wealth.

Local populations have utilized post-abandonment secondary woods as rangelands in central Tanzania and as prospective cropland in the southern half of the nation.

Tanzania’s Miombo woodlands and forests, particularly secondary forests, still occupy extensive swaths of land and have enormous potential for providing non-wood and wood items for human use. However, commercial harvesting takes place without proper oversight in these forests, resulting in continued deterioration of the resource base leading to detrimental effects on productivity. Another issue that has a direct impact on secondary forests is population increase. Woodlands and forests are being converted to various land use to provide fundamental necessities as the population grows. The rapid disappearance of forests is due to shifting cultivation as a method of agricultural expansion, wildfires and overgrazing. Some wooded areas in the Tabora, Kagera, and Kigoma regions have been devastated by refugee influx from neighbouring Burundi and Rwanda. Due to the fact that land ownership/ tenure is the foundation for land development operations, it may be able to help resolve the situation. Before any attempt to manage, protect and conserve secondary forests on a long-term basis, land use issues must first be resolved.

Experience and Actual Knowledge in the Management of the Country’s Miombo Secondary Forests

The Ministry of Regional Management and Local Government and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT), both under the office of the president (PO-MRALG), are in charge of the administration of the country’s forestry sector. The MNRT owns and maintains all forest reserves under the central government as well as trees in general lands via the Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD). In contrast, The PO-MRALG owns and maintains Miombo forests at the district (forest reserves under the local government) and regional levels.

Decentralized administration has seen decision-making brought closer to the people, yet the lack of a single chain of command has resulted in conflicting interests and duplication of effort. The continuing local and public government reforms, on the other hand, provide a framework for strengthening the weak link and increasing capacity at the appropriate levels.

Secondary Miombo forests can grow on either non-reserved or reserved forest land. Reserved forests are normally protected in some way, but in Tanzania, they are constantly threatened by encroachment, wildfires, shifting crops, ambiguous boundaries and illicit harvesting. Patrolling is a major activity that is done occasionally to protect against the unlawful practices mentioned above.

A considerable portion of land for non-reserved forests is not owned or managed properly. As a result, there is a lot of pressure to convert the area to other uses including agriculture, animal grazing, industrial development and settlement. Furthermore, there is currently no incentive mechanism in place to encourage sustainable forest management on public lands. As a result, the majority of deforestation occurs on the non-reserved property. In the Singida and Arusha areas, community-based forest management (CBFM) is practised actively, with the Duru Haitemba (9,000 hectares) and Mgori (40,000 hectares) woodlands setting the standard for the management of secondary forest by the neighbouring community. The people made the decision to put natural forest lands near to their homes under strict management. These forests are maintained with the goal of providing timber as well as non-forest products, and to restore vegetation and conserving soil. Boundary patrolling and clearing cleaning are the principal tasks carried out by the local people to curb tree theft, dry season fires, and other unlawful activities.

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also participating in managing these secondary Miombo forests. They mostly operate in forest reserves that are legally protected. The Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) manages the Ruvu south forest reserve (approx. 35,500 hectares) in the Coast region of Tanzania. This woodland reserve is under a great deal of pressure. It is well-known for producing charcoal for the ready market in the city of Dar es Salaam. TFCG hopes to save these vulnerable secondary forests via Joint Forest Management.

The WWF is focusing its efforts on coastal forest management, among other things. The main threats to these Miombo forests stem from over-harvesting, expanding agriculture, and, in certain cases, mining and urbanization. The coastal area covered by forests is shrinking, and are increasingly being limited to forest reserves and holy spots. WWF prioritizes forest conservation through collaborating with the Beekeeping and Forestry Division as well as traditional authorities.

Kitulang’alo forest reserve (approx. 500 hectares) in Morogoro district is managed by the Sokoine University of Agriculture for research and teaching purposes. Otherwise, the prevalent perception is that natural forest plots found on non-reserved lands are affected by encroachment, poor management, lack of clear tenure and ownership, wildfires, and a lack of understanding and incentives for sustainable management of these forests.

The Current Secondary Miombo Forest Management Practices in Tanzania

Miombo woodlands and forests, including secondary forests, are home to a diverse range of vegetation and wildlife. There is no apparent distinction between secondary and primary forests (woodlands included), and the term “secondary forest” can be used interchangeably with “primary forest.” The term ‘forest’ will be used in most cases. Traditionally, the country’s woodlands have been left unmanaged, with the majority of prior efforts focused on extracting non-wood products and fine hardwood. Forests have been viewed as potential areas for livestock development and agriculture in the past because most of them are found in general lands (especially woodland). However, previous management of miombo woodland included early burning to shield sapling regeneration from catastrophic fires occurring in the late dry season, according to the limited research done in the past. Enrichment planting and singling of coppices, particularly in upland rain forests, were also used.

Under natural conditions, mangrove forests renew quite well, and the tidal passage of water promotes this regeneration. Uncontrolled harvesting, salt production and encroachment for agriculture, especially rice farming in freshwater areas, appear to be threats to the mangrove ecosystem’s existence (Dallu, 1989).

Various user groups get harvesting permits without acceptable harvesting plans for charcoal production, logging, honey gathering, fuelwood collecting, and medicinal plant gathering. Due to the extensive misuse of the license system, several issues in oversight and control have arisen. There are now plans in place to remedy the problem.

Effective Miombo forest management in the nation began in the mid-1970s when the government created land husbandry programs HASHI and HADO under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. NGO-run programs such as HIMA Iringa, LAMP Bahati and others followed. GTZ launched one of the TFAP projects supporting the Natural Resource Buffer Zone in early 1990.

Land husbandry programs are designed to address the basic needs of the local people, such as food, fodder, wood fuel, and a variety of intangible requirements, such as soil conservation. To decrease the deforestation rate, land husbandry programs focus on afforestation, conservation and management of natural Miombo woodlands and forests, integrated timber production, bee products, wood fuels, and other non-wood forest products, improved agriculture and better planning of land use planning.

Underfunding by the World Bank, a conventional Miombo forest management project (FRMP) was established in 1991/92. It ran in two phases in the Tabora and Mwanza areas until it came to an end in 1998/99. The project’s principal operations included planting trees by groups, individuals and institutions, field patrols, the development of better stoves, and some Joint Forest Management experiments.

An updated National Forest Policy was adopted by the Tanzanian government in 1998. The Forest Policy’s major goal is to establish a favourable environment for the forest sector’s development. This was accomplished through decentralizing forest management responsibilities to district councils and local communities, as well as encouraging increased participation of the civil society and the private sector in the sustainable management of forests. This indicates that the updated National Forest Policy has totally altered the country’s forest management methods and techniques. The following are the primary characteristics of the Forest Policy in terms of secondary Miombo forest management:

  • Miombo forests found on general lands, such as open access forest regions, are prone to conversion to other uses of land, such as shifting agriculture and are also subject to fires regularly. There have been few incentives for sustainable and systematic forest management in the absence of formal user rights or security of tenure over these forest resources. Natural regrowth is being hampered by wildfires and uncontrolled grazing, ultimately culminating in deforestation. The new Forest Policy considers allocating all trees and forests on general lands to private persons, villages, or the government, in order to establish a designated owner and to decrease uncontrolled usage of all trees and forests. As an incentive for long-term management, village institutions will be given appropriate user rights, including individual rights.
  • Its main goal is to promote Miombo forest management and conservation, as well as to guarantee that benefits are shared fairly among all stakeholders. It establishes joint management agreements between specialized executive agencies, the central government, local governments or the private sector, as well as organized local communities and other groups of people who live near the forest. User rights awarded for forest produce will be managed according to authorized management plans.
  • There was no legislative structure in place to encourage community and private-based forestry, inclusive of village forest reserves. Investment in forestry on private and community properties was limited by a lack of land and ambiguous tree and land tenure, especially for women. The updated Forest Policy addresses this issue by stating that the legal framework for promoting sustainable forest management is in place. Farmers will be able to claim ownership of indigenous species, including those that are reserved. Village governments, or other bodies recognized by village governments, such as NGOs, will administer village forest reserves. For the creation of Miombo forest plantations on farmlands, gender-specific extension guidance and financial incentives will be offered.

In April 2002, the Parliament passed a new Forest Act. Under the community-oriented Miombo forest management concept, the Act establishes mechanisms through which individuals or local communities can manage forests. Alternatively, they can form a Joint Forest Management Agreement with the relevant government entity to share management tasks in Local and Central Government Forest reserves.

The updated Forest Policy and the implementation of the Forest Act have set a new course for the country’s forest management and development. The two documents, in summary, support the notion of PFM.

PFM is a technique for achieving sustainable forest management by encouraging people living closest to Miombo forest resources to manage or co-manage woodland and forest resources. It is defined by a local community sharing power rather than merely benefits, as well as accepting ownership and control of forest resources.

Even before the updated Forest Policy was implemented, a number of initiatives had been trialled on JFM and CBFM. These are primarily land husbandry initiatives, with one forest management project (FRMP) noted above, that have amassed a great deal of experience with the idea of Participatory Forest Management (PFM) in general.

The PFM approach to forest conservation and management is now being used in two new projects. The UTUMI forest management program is located in Lindi and the MEMA (Matumizi Endelevu ya Misitu ya Asili) program in Iringa the two initiatives. Furthermore, several Community Based Organizations and NGOs are also involved in managing the country’s forests, including CARE in Morogoro, Africare (which supports forestry in Tabora) and Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, which works in the Coast area. Several initiatives, including the GTZ-supported Natural Resource, the WB-supported FRMP, the FINNIDA-supported Rural Integrated Support Programme (RIPS) in Mtwara and Lindi regions, Buffer Zone project in Tanga’s Handeni district, and Conservation of Lowland Coastal Forests supported by WWF in the coastal region, have been completed. PFM has also been tried in the country’s Miombo forest plantations, such as the Shume plantations in Tanga’s Lushoto district.

One of the most important takeaways from the preceding projects is that practically all forest technical management programs are participatory in character and supported by donors. The implementation and planning of the initiatives involved key stakeholders. These are the project areas’ District Council Forestry employees, Regional Forestry Officers and the local people living near the said woodlands. The involvement of important stakeholders lowers the costs of managing forest resources and assures the initiatives’ long-term viability after the funders have departed.

Perhaps the most serious worry is the question of benefit sharing. Privileges and benefits are increasingly essential to organizations participating in forest resource management, whether it is under government, public, or collaborative control. People are increasingly appreciating the value of Miombo forests, even secondary forests, in enhancing human well-being. They are beneficial in terms of the economy, society, and the environment. The privileges largely consist of possibilities to utilize forest resources under any given management scheme. Local people should be given the privilege of collecting in all management categories:

  • Firewood
  • Medicinal plants
  • Construction poles
  • Mushrooms, nuts, fruit, and other edible products
  • Honey, by using conservative techniques

Furthermore, with the implementation of the Forest Act 2002, extra incentives can be offered to local communities, such as the collection of revenue derived from the forest resource.

Political and Institutional Concerns With the Country’s Secondary Miombo Forest Management

Land tenure refers to the ownership of land by the community, private persons or the government. All Tanzanian land remains public land, according to the 1999 Land Act and Village Act, and is vested in the president as a trustee for and on behalf of every Tanzanian citizen. The Acts provide a system of a right of occupancy for the use and habitation of land.

The statutory and customary Rights of Occupation are recognized in the 1995 National Land Policy. The government gives out statutory land rights for a term of no more than 99 years, although customary rights of possession are unrestricted. The granted rights have a maximum of 99 years, but customary rights have no time limit and are an absolute right of property ownership.

The state provides occupation rights in three categories (FBD, 2000b):

  • Reserved land – Managed by statutory and other bodies
  • General land – under the land’s commissioner
  • Village land – under village council administration

The lands commissioner has the authority to allocate land on both general and restricted lands. The Village Land Act establishes land tenure, which is critical in Miombo forest management because village lands hold the majority of forest resources. The Village Land Act of 1999 gives the village council the authority to administer local land as a trustee management property in the representation of the villagers and other village residents. Otherwise, the lack of solid land ownership leads to flaws such as inadequate participation of the community in afforestation programs. This has an impact on long-term efforts to protect soil and reduce land degradation.

Tanzania has over 13 million hectares of gazette forest area, which is mostly owned and administered by the central government via the Beekeeping and Forestry division under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Only 600,000 hectares are under the control of local governments. About 9 million hectares of the 13 million hectares are used for forestry production (mainly harvesting of timber). Forest plantations cover 80,000 hectares and are largely used for wood production.

Beekeeping in Ololosokwan Village Tanzania
Beekeeping in Ololosokwan Village Tanzania

The fundamental issue is the government’s inability to manage the forest resources in order to fulfil the expanding demand for forest services and products. Miombo forest cover is decreasing as a result of forest degradation and destruction, as well as unsustainable forest conversion to other uses.

Illegal harvesting, overexploitation, encroachment of non-wood and wood forest products are all persistent threats to gazetted Miombo forest reserves. The district authorities also contribute to this scenario since they are continuously looking for new methods to increase money from the forests while ignoring the issue of long-term forest management. The second forest policy statement attempts to resolve this situation: “The central government’s forest reserves will be handled by the private sector or one or more specialized executive agencies to guarantee efficiency in forest conservation and management. Local governments will continue to administer forest reserves, or they may delegate management to specialized executive bodies.”

For the administration of Miombo forest reserves, the Forest Policy supports privatizing, creating executive agencies, or involving communities. However, before entering into any form of partnership, the FBD must first get a statutory right of occupation. The statutory right of occupation mandates the FBD to conduct a cadastral survey to establish the borders and identify the actual area. After that, the  forests will need to be evaluated in order to determine their entire value before they can be disposed of. This will assist in determining how much wealth the partner is given by the FBD. Finally, the Commissioner of Lands will issue a contract of ownership, which will be recorded as a title deed. In every sort of disposition, this procedure is essential.

The non-reserved or non-gazetted woods on public lands span 19 million hectares. The non-gazetted woodlands are largely exploited for shifting agriculture, unregulated fuelwood collecting, charcoal manufacture, and timber exploitation as they are not under any ownership. Livestock grazing, agriculture, human settlements, wildlife protection, industrial projects and recreational activities are all threatening to encroach on these Miombo forests. Tanzania has an estimated 70,000 hectares of community and private forests. The majority of community forest holdings are under 1 hectare, however, there are also vast plantations held by large corporations.

The Forest Policy stipulates the establishment of a legislative framework for the development of community and private-based forest and tree ownership. Farmers will be able to hold the rights of their own indigenous species, inclusive of reserved species, in addition to planted foreign species. Village governments or other designated bodies such as NGOs, religious institutions, associations, user groups, and so on, will maintain these village Miombo forest reserves. The forest reserves will be delineated on the ground, management goals established, and multi-purpose management plans for all forest uses will be developed.

Conclusions and Main Lesson

Sawlogs, honey, firewood, feed, poles, and numerous protective benefits are all provided by the country’s Miombo forests, which also serve as a significant animal habitat. However, there are a number of issues with the management of the forests, including deforestation and lack of inventory data for management and planning. Secondary forests are frequently overlooked as degraded forests and woodland in the recovery stage and consequently neglected. Secondary forest management can have social, ecological, and economic advantages, and must be weighed against the size of the surviving primary forests.

In central Tanzania, deforestation has resulted in a variety of environmental issues, including general land degradation and soil erosion. Clearing for agriculture, wildfires, overgrazing, charcoal manufacturing, and overexploitation of wood resources are the primary causes of deforestation. Land degradation has been caused by a variety of factors, including insecure land tenure as a result of a lack of planning of land use. A definition of land usage as well as security of tenure for diverse forest areas, as well as the guarantee of property rights, are required to encourage local communities and the private sector to protect and manage forests on general lands.

The necessity for good secondary Miombo forest conservation and management is a top priority, as described in the country’s national strategic plans for the development of forestry. The TFAP funded a variety of programs to improve secondary forest conservation and management, including the NRBZ project (Natural Resources Management and Buffer Zone Development Program). Similar initiatives are being planned or are already underway as part of the National Forest Programme. DANIDA, for example, sponsored the UTUMI forest management initiative.

The updated National Forest Policy places responsibility for long-term forest resource management in the hands of the forest sector, in conjunction with crucial stakeholders. The policy stresses decentralization and democratic management. Although central and local government institutions currently lack the competence, finances, or implementation methods to fully support PFM on a broader scale, decentralized programs have demonstrated the strongest possibility of sustainability thus far. The topic of benefit-sharing used to be a major source of concern, as perks and privileges are extremely important to communities participating in forest resource management. Some of these advantages of forests were covered in the previous chapter. The Forest Act of 2002, on the other hand, encourages benefit and cost-sharing, which might affect the viability of Participatory Forest Management with the forest-dependent communities.


  • Secondary Miombo forest management methods differ depending on the biological zone. In some circumstances, the most significant activity is extracting forest resources, while in others, strategies to decrease soil erosion or enhance grazing pastures are the essential concerns. The miombo forests are unique in that they are highly vulnerable to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Effective protection will need significant effort in this case. Because the majority of deforestation occurs in non-reserved forests, issuing title deed documents should be a top priority. This can be followed by the distribution of energy-efficient stoves to populations living near woodlands, as well as afforestation efforts.
  • In the past, large swaths of secondary Miombo forests were abandoned without the appropriate care. Those on general lands were viewed as prospective agricultural grounds, with harvesting being the primary activity. This condition arose partially as a result of the country’s previous forest strategy, which concentrated on the management of fast-growing exotic forest plantations to supply the country’s industrial wood needs, and partly as a result of the Forestry Service’s low priority. The Forest Division received relatively little funding from the government. However, because of changes in policy and political backing, the situation has now changed. Through its many financing sources, including donors, the retention program, and NGOs, the FBD should aim to exploit this opportunity to strengthen secondary forest management.
  • In project areas, income-generating activities such as beekeeping should be promoted and supported to reduce the reliance on secondary Miombo forest populations. These would, together with other measures, encourage the regeneration of degraded areas.

Miombo Woodlands Map of Africa

Africa Miombo woodlands map
Africa Miombo woodlands map

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