Apr 25, 2012

Zanzibar: Increasing Deforestation Threatens Island

People’s reliance on natural resources is too high, seen that forests in Zanzibar disappear at a rate of 1000 hectares per year. The United Nations REDD programme aims at countering this trend.  

Below is an article published by AllAfrica:

Environmentalists in Zanzibar warn that deforestation on the Isles is increasing at an alarming rate, and that collaboration between policy makers and communities residing near natural forests is crucial in protecting the remaining forests.

Ignorance, insufficient funds, lack of definitive boundaries of forests are areas that increase the likelihood of encroachment and land possession conflicts.

The cost of alternative fuel for cooking such as gas is some of the challenges hampering efforts in protecting forests in Zanzibar. "There is a need to dialogue closely with community leaders, councillors and with more stakeholders to ensure that local government leaders are fully aware of environment conservation," said Mr Tamrin Ali Said at a seminar on climate change held for members of the House of Representatives.

The United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) which is active in developing countries was launched in 2008 to assist developing countries build capacity to reduce emissions and to participate in future REDD+ mechanisms. REDD+ takes on the role of encouraging communities to reduce emissions as a result of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

The programme covers sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. Tamrin told lawmakers and other stakeholders that the extent of tree felling for firewood, construction, and expansion of human settlement is very high in both Pemba and Unguja. He said the heavy reliance on natural resources for fuel and income, without involving women in conservation initiatives is disastrous.

Mr Hamza Hassan Juma, a Representative from Kwamtipura and Mr Makame Mshimba Mbarouk of Kitope constituency say that leaders are to blame for the increasing deforestation because their projects they run include the cutting down of trees for business and construction. Representatives said they would like the government to support development partners in embarking on a community drive to conserve the environment.

"With alternative income generating activities, incentive, increased use of electricity and the distribution of gas cookers, we hope to save the natural forests, currently under threat from humanity," he said. Firewood remains the major fuel used for cooking on the Isles. Research done by Mr Rashid Said Masoud from the Department of Forestry reveals that the felling of trees for firewood and charcoal is seen by rural residents as a means of earning a quick buck.

The team involved in the REDD campaign, which includes giving out Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has decried the low gas usage among Zanzibaris since the project started five years ago. The use of other fuels such as charcoal, electricity and firewood still remains high. High investment costs, ignorance, fear of gas cylinders, product scarcity, and lack of technical know-how and theft of the cylinders are reasons cited for the low gas usage.

In his opening speech at the seminar for Zanzibar legislators, the second Vice- President, Ambassador Seif Ali Iddi, said Zanzibar is vulnerable to climate change impacts and asked for the mitigation strategies. The speech was read by the Speaker of Zanzibar House of Representatives, Mr Pandu Ameir Kificho, on the Amabassador's behalf, calling for everyone including law makers to play an active role in environment conservation.

The legislators planted trees outside the House of Representatives at the beginning of the seminar, and they promised to motivate their electorate to conserve the environment. Prof Pius Yanda from the Institute of Natural Resources Monitoring said that smaller islands such as Kisiwa Panza in Pemba are threatened by erosions and the rise of sea levels due to climate change and environment degradation.

Mr Sheha Mjaja Juma, director of the Environment Department in Zanzibar, said at the meeting that deforestation is linked to negative impacts of climate change. He said forests in Zanzibar are disappearing at an alarming rate of 1,000 hectares per year. He said that if REDD is implemented well, it can help stop the destruction of forests, and may be an effective solution that is already working in pioneering projects.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in 2007 that the forest sector and other sectors that impact land use -- through deforestation, forest degradation and other changes in forests -- contributes approximately 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, per year. These emissions are mainly taking place in tropical developing countries.

It is estimated that a 25 per cent reduction in annual global deforestation rates could be achieved by 2015 if financing were made available between 2010 and 2015 for results-based incentives and capacity building, complementing other bilateral and multilateral REDD+ efforts.

In Africa REDD started as a pilot project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, and Zambia, and interest in UN-REDD Programme has grown rapidly. The Programme now has 29 partner countries. Most of these national programmes are in the implementation phase, indicating a relatively rapid pace from development to implementation of programmed activities.