Tanzania is a country in Eastern Africa with a population of approximately 57 million people. Tanzania has one of the largest forest covers of any country accounting for over 38% of its landmass. The plentifulness of forests has led to heavy reliance on their harvesting for building materials, farmland, and energy. Roughly 95% of Tanzania’s energy is derived from wood or charcoal. As Tanzania’s population has begun to grow at a steady rate since the 1970’s, the deforestation rate has become unsustainable and poses a long-term threat to the country, it’s residents, and the diverse creatures that rely on the forest. It is estimated that forests account for 10-15% of the country’s gross domestic product.
The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program is an international fund that can provide countries with a national REDD+ plan with financial resources to protect forests. In 2009 it was decided by the government of Tanzania to build a national REDD+ plan to seek international aid. The plan sought resources to help reduce illegal logging of the forests, sustainable agriculture, improve forest management, support rural communities that rely on forests for livelihood, and transition to alternative fuels. It is estimated that better overall forest management provided by the REDD+ resources could amount to revenue and savings of approximately $630 million annually. The building of a national REDD+ program in Tanzania experienced many challenges that are broadly applicable to other nations seeking international aid for their resource protection. Lessons learn in overcoming these challenges include:
- Assembling diverse groups to build the REDD+ program plan. Previous to this effort, the government of Tanzania had no experience with REDD+. To fill knowledge gaps the taskforce consisted of leaders from the government ministry, the Division of the Environment, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Since its inception more ministries have been added to the taskforce to build their expertise. Eventually the taskforce launched five in-depth research projects into the pre-requisites and impacts of a REDD+ program in Tanzania.
- Disseminating research and capacity building. To address social and infrastructure gaps four-year programs for training and infrastructure were launched. These programs will train scientists and technicians, and acquire the equipment for a monitoring, reporting, and verification system necessary for the REDD+ program.
- Building “North-South” collaboration. The REDD+ program was built through collaboration in-country, and in coordinating with international organizations such as the country of Norway, the World Bank, and the United Nations REDD program. These partners provided valuable insight, technical expertise, and early funding.
- Assuring ownership and stakeholder engagement. Personal ownership, especially at the community level, is essential for the REDD+ program. But early efforts at collaboration resulted in the distrust of communities towards national and international organizations resulting in lower-than-expected stakeholder support. Helping communities feel involved and take ownership of their regions remains a challenge with this program and should be well-thought out in future programs. In Tanzania, for example, ministries scheduled meetings quickly and without adequate notice which eroded local trust and support.
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