Katuma River ecosystem set for restoration

INITIATIVES to preserve the Katuma River ecosystem and the indigenous Khaya anthotheca (Mkangazi) are gaining momentum in the Katavi region.

The indigenous Khaya anthotheca is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

In order to stop further deterioration of the riverine system and save the tree from extinction, a project is currently underway that targets to plant 200,000 Khaya anthotheca trees in four villages along the banks of the Katuma River and in open spaces.

The Katuma Riverine has been designated as an important catchment for water conservation due to its importance in supporting local livelihoods through daily domestic uses and paddy farming, as well as wildlife in Katavi National Park.

Regardless of the significance of the ecosystem, human activities such as the encroachment of farming along the river banks, tree cutting for biomass and building, and overgrazing have wrought havoc on the ecosystem.

This has accelerated what Josiah Severre, Director of Green Agenda Tanzania, called the “mega environmental destruction” along the Katuma riverine, severely harming the ecosystem of Katavi National Park (KNP) and the Khaya anthotheca tree.

Green Agenda Tanzania is implementing the project in collaboration with Katuma Primary School and with the support of the ‘Tuungane’ Program of The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

The tree seedlings raised at a nursery established by the two partners will be planted in this fiscal year 2022–23.

The goal of the project, according to Severre, is to restore the natural vegetation in the ecosystem of the Katuma River, which was severely harmed by human activities, such as haphazard farming, farming along rivers, cutting down trees for waste, expanding and constructing homes, and arbitrary animal husbandry.

The Tanganyika District Administrative Secretary, Geoffrey Mwashitete, recently launched the planting of Khaya anthotheca species (Mkangazi) tree seedlings in Kapanga village.

According to the District Natural Resources Officer, Bruno Nicolaus, they recommended planting of Mkangazi tree because it is one of the tree species that are in danger of disappearing in the world.

He said regeneration of the tree is poor in places, especially where parent trees are scarce, and serious genetic erosion is believed to have occurred.

Some subpopulations are protected, and there are log export bans and feeling limits in some countries.

“The project plays two important roles: recovering the tree species that is threatened and resuscitating the Katuma River ecosystem,” he said.

The four villages where the project would be carried out are Kapanga, Katuma, Kamilala, and Mnyagala. Planting would be expanded to other villages along the Katuma River.

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