3. Tanzania: Conservation groups save trees, earn profits (The East African)

| March 31, 2008

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Mwadawa Luziga spends most of her time in the Miombo woodlands near her home. The trees are both her livelihood and her mission. The forest offers a bounty of fruit from wild and indigenous trees. But in order to make a profit from the fruit, locals must also preserve the forest.More than 1,200 people in the Tabaro Region of Tanzania have joined groups aimed at conserving the Miombo woodlands. These vast forests spread across south-central Africa, from Angola in the west to Tanzania in the east. But they have been rapidly disappearing due to over-harvesting of trees.

In Tanzania, a drop in the price of staple crops forced many farmers to turn from their fields to the forest, harvesting trees to sell as lumber and firewood. But now, locals have learned how to make a living from the woodlands without clearing the trees.

It all started when an agricultural research institute obtained a grant to develop fruit-processing technology. From there, conservation groups were formed, trained and supplied with equipment to process fruit into jam, juice, and wine.

Ms. Luziga explains that the groups talk to communities about the importance of conservation. As a result, she says, it has become unfashionable to harvest indigenous and wild trees for firewood. Conservationists like Ms. Luziga also voluntarily police forests against logging.

Now that so many people process fruit, they have a vested interest in preserving the forests. Their jam, juice, and wine are sold in towns and cities, and have become popular among visitors to the area.

David Mayanga is an extension officer in Tabaro Region. He says that many families have seen their incomes triple through the processing of fruit products. The promotion of fruit has improved family nutrition, and extra income improves access to health care and education.

And demand for the locally-produced fruit products is growing. Now conservation groups are looking to use even more of the forest fruits, which appear in bumper crops once a year. The groups plan to purchase solar-powered refrigerators to preserve more fruit long enough to be processed.