Why EAMCEF crucial in changing lives of villagers

A forest is an area of land dominated by trees. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing, and ecological function.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines a forest as, land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than five metres and a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban use.

Using this definition, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 found that forests covered 4.06 billion hectares or approximately 31 per cent of the world’s land area in 2020.

Forests are the predominant terrestrial ecosystem of Earth, and are found around the globe. More than half of the world’s forests are found in only five countries (Brazil, Canada, China, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America). The largest shares of forests (45 per cent) are in the tropical latitudes, followed by those in the boreal, temperate, and subtropic domains.

Tanzania is endowed with the famous Eastern Arc Mountains Forests that are the main source of rain and water for several regions of the country. Due to its importance, the  Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) was established so as to safeguard the mountains and forests in order to help people get enough water.

EAMCEF’s Projects Coordinator for Southern Zone, Ms Southern Zone Projects Officer, Ms Rosemary Boniface says the Endowment Fund invests heavily in different projects in villages near the forests, institutions such as schools, so as to make sure the environment is conserved.

Generally in planting trees, she says, villagers can also keep bees and get honey as well as other products for eating, have their health improved. There is also the business component that earns families more income to cater for different costs, such as constructing and refurbishing residential houses, washrooms and improve pass rates.

In what appear to be a rare move, at Idete ward, Kilombero district, Morogoro region there is a group that has, since its formation, led to many people’s eyebrows raised.

The group is named Kiwavikai that is comprised of 21 members that are HIV+ and openly speak about their condition while normal lives. Mr David Mkumba is the Chairman of Kiwavikai Group who unveils that with eight men among the members, they initiated the project with support of the Eastern Arc Mountain Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) for several reasons, one being their economic wellbeing.

Mr Mkumba says with 28 modern beehives from 2011 they now get an average of 100 litres of honey per season, selling part of it and keeping some for their own use, as it is both food and medication to different illnesses.

“Kiwavikai is an economic-generating group that was formed by 21 people in 2011. After knowing that we were HIV+ we called one another and say it was not the end of life but rather a new beginning, so we proposed this project and happily we were supported by EAMCEF and by then we were five people …they come on joining us,” says Mr Mkumba cheerfully.

Last season they sold the honey getting 800,000/- that they used differently on individual basis, such as buying and chicken rearing. He unveils that they were provided the beehives and necessary gears by EAMCEF.

Mr Mkumba says there were some people who turned them (Kiwavikai) into a laughing stock after they made their condition known to the public and formed the group, but some of them have died from the same malady because they did not adhere to prescriptions.

“They used to turn us into a laughing stock, but some have since contracted the disease, some have died and there are some who are HIV- but come to me and ask for work and I employ them on my farm. This is just a situation, I have a child who is HIV- from a mother who is HIV+ like me,” says Mr Mkumba.

Another member, Ms Amina Mpunjae, says the project has greatly helped conserve the forest that is an important source of rain and water. They have since asked for more beehives. Ms Zaituni Lukila thanks EAMCEF for the support, adding that more people want to join them.

Another group doing the same activities is ‘Wosia wa Baba’ that could simply means ‘Father’s Will’. This runs its activities near Udzungwa Mountain National Park, at Msufini village, Mang’ula division. Mr Godfrey Holo is the chairman of the group that was initiated in 2006. He says they started with traditional beehives until EAMCEF came on board to support them with modern double beehives.

Mr Holo says to date they have 70 modern beehives and that they collect an average of 400 litres of honey per season, due to the quality of beehives and training they got on how to run the project. Before EAMCEF chipped in, they were harvesting less than 200 litres.

The group has gone a step further and packs the honey that is sold in bottles that sell at 5,000/- and 10,000/- respectively. He says money they get from selling honey helps to make both ends meet.

“It is from this project that we get money to cater for education of our children and other goods and services we need. We have bought a plot where we will put more beehives so that we go to the next level. We used to enter Udzungwa Mountain National Park to make a living but now there is no need for that. We join hands with other stakeholders to conserve the park as it is beneficial to us,” says the chairman of the group that has 10 members.

Treasurer to the group, Ms Mwanaamina Said says the project has emancipated them from poverty and is proud to be a member. She says they are geared to do more business by supplying more honey out of the district and region as well.

Udzungwa Mountains National Park Tourism Conservator, Mr Richard Hayri, says the positives of the EAMCEF intervention are a lot, one of them being the fact that people no longer encroach in the park as they have alternative activities in beekeeping out of the park. Other people get employment in improving nature and modern trails as well as in clearing boundaries of the park.

Idete Ward Executive Officer (WEO), Mr Wolfram Mhiche said the project has been helpful to the community as there is huge demand for honey. He was thankful for the group being trained and given modern beehives as opposed to traditional ones that produce little honey.

EAMCEF was established in 2001 as a mechanism to provide for long-term, reliable and sustainable funding for biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.

EAMCEF was set up as a joint initiative of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and now operates as a non-for-profit Trust.

EAMCEF’s mission is to catalyze resources to foster conservation of forest biodiversity in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania through investment in sustainable community development, sustained financing for protected areas management and financial support to applied research.

The main intention of establishing EAMCEF is to address the need for a long-term sustainable approach to funding the conservation of forest biodiversity in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania.

The Eastern Arc is recognized globally as a biodiversity hotspot with some of Africa‘s most unique biodiversity; however, human activities have reduced drastically the original extent of forest cover.

The Eastern Arc Mountain forests form major catchment areas that collectively provide water for most of Tanzania‘s coastal communities, including Dar-es-Salaam with a population of over three million people and most of the major industries in the country.

EAMCEF came about as a result of reforms which had been taking place in Tanzania over the past twenty years. The National Forest Policy (1998), which emphasizes biodiversity conservation through multidisciplinary approaches by multiple stakeholders as well as the Trustees‘ Incorporation Ordinance provide strong political and legal support for the Fund‘s activities. EAMCEF is governed by a Board of Trustees that includes five members representing government, local communities, conservation NGOs and academia.

EAMCEF is mandated to receive advice and guidance from Local Advisory Committees in each area where it finances projects. The Local Advisory Committees elect the two community-level board members.

EAMCEF funding is on three priority thematic areas namely community development and conservation activities for improvement of rural livelihoods of forest adjacent communities, applied biodiversity research relevant to the conservation of biodiversity in the priority Eastern Arc Mountains and management of forest reserves

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