Enhancing Local Communities’ Environmental Awareness and Sustainable Use of Energy Sources for the Long-Term Conservation of the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania

Project location: TANZANIA, Udzungwa
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: September 2014
Project number: 2012-029
Beneficiary: Museo delle Scienze di Trento


The Udzungwa Mountains of south-central Tanzania is the largest block of the Eastern Arc Mountains, one of the most important sites in Africa for biological endemism. These mountains are covered in primeval rainforests, very rich in biodiversity and resources for indigenous people living in the area. In addition, the mountains provide ecosystem services of national importance, especially in form of hydropower plants and soil fertility. The eastern Kilombero valley is, in fact, the most productive area in the country for sugar cane and rice. The favourable living conditions and the high population growth (over 3.5%) are the main causes of the high number of people which dwell around the forests. Nearly 1 million Tanzanians live in 26 villages nearby the Udzungwa Mountains, of which up to 70% are immigrants that arrived in recent years and have no cultural ties to forest use.

In 1992, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park (1990 sq. km.) was established to protect the north-eastern part of the area. To support local livelihoods and public appreciation of the park, the park allowed regulated collection of firewood. This concession however, was banned completely as of June 2011. This event has had a negative impact on the local population, 98% of which depends almost completely on firewood for cooking, heating and lighting. At the moment the villages surrounding the forest are experiencing a chronic lack of firewood and the situation is rapidly deteriorating towards heavy environmental degradation and a general increase of poverty.

The project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, aims to support local people to improve their life quality and conserve their environment by (1) promoting environmental education and public awareness on forest conservation and sustainable development and (2) introducing alternative energy sources. In parallel, through the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre, the project will continue to support the critical component of locally-implemented biodiversity monitoring, so that park performance in relation to community changes in attitudes and practices can be monitored and quantified.

Activities and procedures will be the following:

1. Creation of new tree nurseries and improvement of the existing ones in 10 schools and in 5 villages of the area in order to create alternatives to forest firewood and timber. A tree nursery census will be conducted into the schools and villages of the area. Meanwhile 2-day training courses on tree nursery management will be held for 20 teachers and 25 women of 5 villages by Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, Trento Museum local partner with great expertise in forest participatory management, greening, reforestation, tree nurseries and environmental education. The existing tree nurseries will be improved by fencing and enlarging the nursing areas. New ones will be created to achieve the goal of 1 tree nursery per school and 1 per village.
2. Training course for 15 farmers on agro-forestry practices and implementation of agro-forestry plots in 5 villages. The training will be held by local partners that have specific expertise in the field. Three farmers from each village will be selected on the basis of the will to implement agro-forestry practices on their fields. They will receive a 3-day training course on agro-forestry that will instruct them on how to prepare and cultivate their fields. With the support of Trento Museum and other local partners, expert in agro-forestry, they will then implement 15 agro-forestry plots to improve local production and obtain alternative firewood and timber.
3. Training course for 25 women of 5 villages on energy-efficient stoves, best practices to minimize firewood consumption, construction of briquettes from wasted biomass, wonder baskets, waste management.
Five women from each village will be selected and will attend a 5-day course on three types of energy-efficient stoves (mud stove, Mayon rice-hull stove and stove for pressed briquette). The training will be held by Legacy Foundation, (www.legacyfound.org), a non-profit organization with representatives in Tanzania. During the course they will learn the importance of and the method for saving firewood, charcoal and in general energy, they will be instructed on how to produce briquettes from rice hull, dry leaves, fruit skins and husks, used paper. They will also learn how to use wonder baskets to cook without fire and how to reduce, recycle and dispose wastes. All the necessary material will be acquired by Trento Museum, including the wooden press to produce briquettes. At the end of their training the women will act as trainers of other women in the 5 villages. With a peer-to peer technique they will promote and diffuse the stoves and they will produce briquettes to sell. Initially, the stoves will be built by blacksmiths and craftsmen of the villages with the financial support of the project and will be donated to the women. Afterwards they will be produced to be sold to the local people, becoming an income-generating activity.
4. Annual environmental education program in 10 primary schools and in 5 secondary schools in order to teach students the importance of forests, a sustainable approach to the use of resources, energy-efficient practices, waste management. With the help of teachers, school directors and ward education officers, the annual program of environmental education, already existing in 5 primary schools of the area, will be extended to 5 new primary schools and 5 secondary schools. Lessons will be carried out by trained personnel of the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre. The approach will be inter-active and stimulating. The Environmental Education manual for teachers made by Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, a Tanzanian NGO, especially for the Eastern Arc area, will be used together with another manual of teachers' activities prepared in 2011 for the teacher training course. Experiments, dramas, drawings, debates, posters and twinnings with Italian schools will be tools to teach students the importance of forest, biodiversity and environment conservation, best practices to save energy and fuel and a sustainable approach on the use of resources such as water, wood, wildlife. They will also learn a correct waste management.
5. In collaboration with the National Park, strengthen an existing ranger-based monitoring program, that conducts monthly census of large mammals throughout the park (6 km-long transects from 5 ranger posts) and establish a human disturbance monitoring program along the eastern edge of the park (transect from forest edge to interior to record all signs of human encroachment).
For activity 1-3, short, easy-to-read, illustrated guides in Swahili on tree nurseries, agro-forestry and energy-efficient techniques and technologies will be produced, in order to give people the possibility of auto-learning. Each activity will be followed by an on-going and final monitoring by using quantity and quality indicators such as number of participants, number of successful results, number of contacted vs number of involved people, questionnaires, interviews and active participation of the stakeholders.

In general, with this project Trento Museum aim to empower the local community by improving their awareness, technical skills and knowledge. Thank to the training courses and the education component of the project the target groups will acquire particular competence in tree nursery management, agro-forestry cultivation, energy-efficient technologies and behaviours, sustainable use of resources. This knowledge will have a multiplier effect on the entire community, because the beneficiaries will act as trainers of their peer and they will diffuse it through their actions, behaviours, practices. Moreover the acquired knowledge will release local people from the strict dependence from forest resources and will generate possible income-generating activities (production and sale of seedlings and plants, improved and diversified harvests to get extra vegetables and fruits or firewood and timber for sale, production of fuel-efficient stoves and briquettes for sale). In summary, the activities of the project and its training/education component have the final goal to preserve and improve the local environment and increase the life quality of the 5 villages of the Udzungwa area.
In particular, the project will achieve the following:
1. Allow communities from 10 schools and 5 villages with capacity to plant an estimated 1000 seedlings from 15 nurseries, so to improve reforestation of village areas (dedicated to this purpose) or farms, and thus self-production of firewood and timber;
2. At least 10 farmers trained on agro-forestry techniques so that at least 10 operational agro-forestry plots are established that produce better harvests and firewood and timber for sale;
3. Training courses establish at least 5 qualified women groups that diffuse energy-efficient practices in villages with a peer-to-peer technique and produce briquettes for sale, in order to use biomass available for free in the villages rather than buying firewood and charcoal and facilitate the adoption of new energy-efficient technologies in at least 50 families.
4. Involvement of at least 800 school children with the Environmental Education Program and enhance their awareness and knowledge on subjects such as sustainable development, biodiversity and forest conservation, wise use of resources, energy-efficiency.
5. Park management run a ranger-based monitoring of large mammals and of human disturbance that allows to quantify park protection effectiveness.

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