Tanzania With an average of 400,000 hectares of forests destroyed nnually, Tanzania has an alarming deforestation rate.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that the country’s tree cover has declined by 20 per cent over the last 25 years as indiscriminate logging, charcoal burning, mining and farmland expansion are continuing unabated.
Its 2011 report showed that 38 per cent (33.5 million hectares) was forested. Reserved forests comprised 14.3 million hectares and unreserved forests cover about 19 million hectares. As the population is increasing and demand for fuelwood is soaring, the deforestation rate will grow.
Indeed, an average annual deforestation rate between 1990 and 2000 was 0.99 per cent. It rose to 1.10 per cent between 2000 and 2005 and has kept on increasing.
Sadly, many Tanzanians do not seem to take the deforestation threat seriously. A report has revealed that bushfires increased by 118 per cent in the year ending May 2016, up from the year ending May 2015. Hunters and farmers have been setting fires on forests, causing huge destruction to the environment as plants and animals are burnt.
In its July 2016 report, the Tanzania Forestry Research Institute gave Katavi Region a dubious distinction of being the leader in bushfires. Katavi is followed by Tabora, with Kigoma and Mbeya regions being number two, three and four respectively. The report has established that Arusha is Mainland Tanzania’s leading region in protecting forests against fires.
After Arusha, Geita follows and then Singida, with Kagera Region being the fourth.
Alarm as more wildland fires are detected
Bushfires were observed in Katavi, Tabora, Kigoma and Mbeya regions. Katavi was the leading region with about 18 per cent. Tabora and Kigoma each had14 per cent while Mbeya had 13 per cent of Tanzania’s total bushfires.
This is bad. The importance of forests cannot be overestimated as people depend on them for their survival, from the air they breathe to the wood they use.
Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.
Experts say about 50 per cent of drugs worth $108 billion are derived from forest plants a year meet medicinal needs of about one billion people worldwide.
But the Worldwide Wildlife Fund has warned that between 1990 and last year, 129 million hectares of forests were destroyed globally. It is sad to note that Tanzania is a contributor to wanton tree felling. Researchers say more forests are being destroyed today than ever before, suggesting that more greenhouse gases dioxide are being released into the atmosphere.
Biodiversity experts caution that planting non-native species of trees to replace natural forests for reforestation projects is not environment-friendly.
Tanzania should check deforestation for the betterment of the posterity. That should include building infrastructure and setting reasonable prices for gas and create awareness for massive use to discourage tree felling for fuelwood. Shift cultivation must be discouraged and villagers have to be involved in preventing the destruction of natural forests.