WWF Fears Backlash Re Mangrove Forest Initiative

TORCHING of paddy rice farm huts and felling of coconut trees in the Rufiji Delta mangrove forest reserve, carried out recently by Mangrove Management Project, may affect future prospects for community forestry management targeting the global carbon trading market.

WWF’s Country Director, Stephen Mariki and Marine and Climate Change Advisor, Jason Rubens told ‘Business Standard’ in Dar es Salaam last week that WWF conducted a pilot project in the Rufiji Delta during 2009-2010 with the Forestry & Beekeeping Division,


involving three villages aimed at mobilizing communities to restore 70 hectares of degraded mangrove areas.

“But there is a danger of confusing two separate initiatives. WWF has never advocated the eviction of communities from the delta. The recent evictions were carried out by government agencies,” said Mr Mariki.

He said WWF support for Rufiji Delta communities was evidenced by a separate fisheries co-management programme involving Rufiji, Mafia and Kilwa districts communities in natural resources management and sustainable livelihoods since 2004.

WWF Marine and Climate Change Advisor, Mr Rubens, expressed concern that the recent evictions may add additional challenges to future work in the Rufiji Delta as communities may regard any future mangrove management initiative as part of a strategy to evict them from the delta.


“WWF believes there are opportunities to generate funding for community mangrove management from REDD programmes”, Rubens said. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is a United Nations initiative seeking to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation by attaching a market value to maintaining forests in a good state.

Rubens said if properly done, it may be possible for Rufiji Delta communities to reduce dependence on rice farming in the mangrove forest reserve and earn their living by other means, with the support of REDD payments.

“But a REDD programme is unlikely to be successful in Rufiji without the support of communities”, Rubens pointed out. “Mangroves restoration can only be done through community stewardship. We need to look for positive incentives for communities to conserve forests, that is the whole point of REDD”.

Through a separate REDD initiative, WWF is currently in the process of measuring and establishing how much carbon is stored in mangrove forests. Unlike other forest types, a majority of carbon is stored in the sediments and root systems.

“The calculation of carbon capture in mangrove forests is complicated so it’s necessary to work on that first, before deciding whether it’s feasible to engage communities”, he noted. The two WWF officials refuted as untrue a scholarly report by an American doctorate student which linked a WWF REDD Readiness study to the evictions in the Rufiji Delta.


Betsy Beymer-Farris and Thomas Bassett who are Assistant Professor at Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Furman University in South Carolina and Professor, Department of Geography at University of Illinois respectively, said in their recent report that stopping the Warufiji from cultivating in the delta is counterproductive.

The professors’ report which is still in the final stages of preparation for publication, and is titled: ‘The REDD Menace: Resurgent protectionism in Tanzania’s mangrove forests,’ censures WWF researchers and government authorities for trying to stop Warufiji from surviving by using resources in the delta despite their existence for centuries.

At the centre of their critique of the REDD-readiness programme is the framing of the environmental problem in project documents in which the Warufiji are depicted by foresters, environmentalists, and donors as poor stewards of the mangrove forests.

The report complained that indigenous resource management practices are demeaned as destructive and illegal. Prof Beymer-Farris spent three years between 2008/10 researching in Rufiji delta while Prof Basset is her supervisor.

“At the centre of our critique of the REDD-readiness programme is the framing of the environmental problem in project documents in which the Warufiji are depicted by foresters, environmentalists, and donors as poor stewards of the mangrove forests,” the two authors wrote in the report.

But the two WWF officials pointed out that a recent remote-sensing study conducted in association with Sokoine University has shown that over 5,000 hectares of Rufiji mangrove forest have been lost to rice cultivation over the past 20-30 years.

“Sitting back and trusting in indigenous practices may not be enough”, Rubens said. “Times are changing and populations are increasing. We need to find more creative solutions to help communities meet their livelihood needs, but at less cost to the forest environment. REDD may be part of that solution,” he stressed.


Photo: WN



Copyright © 2011 Tanzania Daily News.All rights


~ by narhvalur on November 16, 2011.

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