A Tanzanian group supported by The Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) has helped two local communities to become fully-certified sustainable forest managers. “This is a first for Africa”, said CLP project leader Steve Ball. “It ensures that the forests are managed sustainably and that local communities can earn over 100 times more from their woodlands than they have done previously”.
The CLP is a partnership between BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International, Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and BP. The Mpingo Conservation Project (MCP) was first supported by the CLP in 1996 to provide much needed basic information on the distribution, ecology and exploitation of the East African Blackwood tree Dalbergia melanoxylon, also known as Mpingo.
The African Blackwood tree has long been over-harvested across the continent to obtain its dark, lustrous heartwood. The wood is greatly prized for its strong structural qualities by local wood carvers and international manufacturers of woodwind instruments. Although African Blackwood is still relatively abundant in South-East Tanzania, illegal logging is widespread and very poor, forest-dependent communities generally receive little benefit from logging on the land around their villages.
After successful early projects, the MCP team received additional CLP awards in 2004 to begin developing a programme of community-managed sustainable forestry - working towards the long-term goal of conserving large areas of forest and woodland in southern Tanzania.