Acute water shortages and hunger expected due to charcoal trade
Dar es Salaam: Tanzanians in rural areas face serious food and water shortages as a result of the uncontrolled charcoal trade driving deforestation and straining already meagre water supplies for agricultural and domestic use, according to a new report.
A survey conducted throughout the country by the civil society network Sauti Zetu reveals unregulated charcoal-making is leading to massive felling of trees and pushing the rate of deforestation up to about 500,000 hectares a year; the charcoal trade alone accounts for 300,000 hectares lost annually.
“This horrendous destruction is confirmed by the fact that a charcoal maker has to use between 30-40 trees to make one mould (furnace) that would produce 15-20 bags of charcoal,” states the report A Burning Issue: Tanzania’s production and trade in charcoal, its impact on the environment and proposed sustainable solutions.
It warns this rate of deforestation could lead to the destruction of half of all catchment areas and water sources within the next decade, a situation likely to reduce water supplies by four times current levels and damage food production.
No region is spared the devastating impacts of the charcoal trade, and the report highlights Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, Tabora, Kigoma, Mbeya, Coast and Morogoro as having significant high consumption rates of charcoal.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 bags of charcoal enter Dar es Salaam every 24 hours and an equal amount enters the other major towns combined. “This adds up to nearly one million tonnes of charcoal a year being consumed in the country,” the report notes.
the middle men, wholesalers and retailers make good money, those actually manufacturing charcoal are heavily exploited, earning just 5,000/- a sack while a wholesaler gets 38,000/-. Although district and municipal councils get 1,000/- a sack, the central Government makes only 800/- from each.
“By failing to control the charcoal trade, the Government loses not only huge amounts of money but also thousands of hectares of forests,” the report stresses.
The report calls on the Government to act swiftly to protect forests and water catchment areas, and makes the following suggestions:
• promote cooking gas, particularly for urban residents, and seek ways to reduce the price of gas cylinders and related equipment;
• support organisations and individuals engaged in developing improved technologies for more efficient use of charcoal:
• implement a tree-planting campaign to ensure charcoal-makers cut trees from their own forests and not from indigenous/natural forests;
• stakeholders, including gas dealers and institutions working to develop more efficient technologies should collaborate with the media to promote their use among rural as well as urban dwellers;
• the Government should emphasise the 2006 Presidential Competition to grow trees and conserve water sources.
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For further information, interviews and copies of the report, please contact Deodatus Mfugale on firstname.lastname@example.org or +255 754 275170
1. Sauti Zetu was created as a result of 106 individuals from 72 civil society organisations being trained in a three-year programme by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency and local partners the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania and Lawyers Environmental Action Team.
2. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the rate of deforestation in Tanzania stands at 500,000 hectares a year, with charcoal accounting for 300,000 hectares.
3. The charcoal business destroying Tanzania’s forests and forest ecosystems is not confined to the country but extends beyond its borders, with Kigoma Region illegally exporting about 1,500 bags of charcoal to Burundi per week; a similar situation faces Tanga Region where Muheza and Kilindi districts illegally export huge amounts of charcoal to Kenya.
4. During 1990-2011, Tanzania lost 7,941,000 hectares of forest.
5: This charcoal project is a brainchild of 72 civil society organisations across Tanzania which have been trained in investigative skills and evidence documentation using still and video cameras as well as taking written evidence. A total of 106 individuals have trained. The training was in implementation of a three year project jointly conducted by EIA, WCST, LEAT and JET whose main aim was to empower civil society organisations in Tanzania with the ability to protect the environment and advocate sustainable use of resources using skills acquired and equipment provided. The project has been implemented by three local organisations, Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST), the Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET), and Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT). The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA London) was the lead partner who also solicited for funds from the development partner ( DIFD).
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