IRINGA Region is on right track as far as water supply sustainability is concerned, thanks to efforts made by different stakeholders.
With Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve and Udzungwa Mountains National Park rising majestically in the region, stakeholders, such as the Eastern Arc Mountains Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) in conjunction with the government supports conservation activities in the region.
With EAMCEF giving money through groups and district councils to do patrol across the conserved areas, it also raises awareness to villagers by building capacity on importance of conservation and why it is vital to stop invading forests.
Dr Goliama Bahati, who is Iringa’s Natural Resources Advisor, said with support from EAMCEF, Iringa has invested heavily in conserving the natural resources it has, saying it is endowed with vast natural resources, so everything in reach must be utilised legally to ensure sustainability of water and biodiversity.
He noted that conservation efforts have assured them of sustainability in water supply as there are big and several water sources in the two conserved areas that feed people in different aspects of life.
Dr Bahati said people around Uzungwa and Udzungwa that lie above Kilombero valley have benefited a lot from different projects that are supported in projects such as piggery, cattle, fish farming, tree planting and others.
He however pointed out that they face some challenges, as Iringa is one of five regions in the country with higher cases of malnutrition. He said with the tree planting project that involves fruit trees such as avocado, as well as other crops such as soya beans and vegetable with support from EAMCEF, the region may pull out of the group.
The advisor expressed his contentment on how Iringa citizens cooperate with the Trust Fund in safeguarding the forests that are source of rain, hailing EAMCEF for empowering people economically.
The success did not come as a bolt out of the blue, as it took many years to reverse the trend of villagers trespassing the Uzungwa, one of the largest forest blocks in the Eastern Arc Mountains, extending over 32,763 hectares in Kilolo, Mufindi and Kilombero districts.
Now, 20 years since the villagers started getting support from EAMCEF to engage in alternative activities instead of feeding cattle in the reserve, cutting trees for timber and firewood and other illegal activities, fruits can vividly been seen.
Some beneficiaries of the tree planting project, said they were contented with the alternative project, with Mr Exavery Kasimba from Idegenda village, Kilolo district saying he made more than 30m/- by selling trees on his 10 hectares out of 50 he planted.
He also gets wood from his new plots. He has, as a result, among others, constructed two houses in Iringa town
Mr Epsion Mgata is another beneficiary who started with five hectares but now has added up to 25 hectares, by getting the seedlings from EAMCEF. He said after selling trees from six hectares he made over 18m/-. He said he was passing on the tradition to his children by taking them to the field so that the project is sustainable.
EAMCEF Project Officer for the Southern Zone, Ms Rosemary Boniface, said they were happy with the situation as bush fires, illegal entry to the forest to get wood and timber has been almost ended.