Villagers in Tanzania reap benefits of climate change mitigation initiatives

Villagers in Tanzania who traditionally relied on wood as an energy source have switched to agricultural waste and reaped benefits including livelihoods, new sources of income and protection of their natural environment.

Community members in villages in East Usambara Biosphere Reserve and the Kilimanjaro World Heritage Site are now using alternative charcoal production methods, in which agricultural waste is used as a substitute for wood.

The change has come about thanks to transformational training in climate change mitigation offered by UNESCO Dar-es-Salaam, in collaboration with various partners and stakeholders, to communities living in and around Biosphere Reserve areas and World Heritage Sites in Tanzania. It has been achieved through the transfer of appropriate technology, via a partnership with the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute Tanzania.

With a background of agricultural abundance, the two regions are suitable areas for the initiative as resources for alternative charcoal production are freely available. Moreover, most of the project’s beneficiaries have experienced problems obtaining cooking fuel, as villagers are not allowed to cut wood from the compulsory buffer zone around the core areas of the protected sites.

In addition, a new policy which bans the use of wood in charcoal production means many traditional charcoal producers were about to lose their livelihoods. The introduction of this alternative green business has met the socio-economic challenges of a large group by providing safe energy sources to poor segments of the population whilst at the same time safeguarding natural sites by reducing the pressure on forest resources.

Alternative charcoal production in the targeted villages commenced immediately after the training and excited villagers are now producing and selling charcoal from agricultural waste, boosting their incomes in the process.

From traditional to sustainable consumption

“Within a month, we changed the lives of people. We transformed conventional charcoal producers and dealers to alternative charcoal producers and dealers. Not only that, we changed the traditional charcoal consumers to sustainable consumers”, said MacDonald Lanzi, an entrepreneurship consultant and trainer.

The benefits from the training have spread from the trained groups which consisted of youth, women and traditional charcoal producers to primary and secondary school teachers who link further to the extra-curricular activities of students teaching them resource management in a sustainable manner. The trained groups also promised to share the benefits from selling alternative charcoal by providing a fund to support school activities of student environmental committees.

This intervention is part of activities of the Green Economy in Biosphere Reserve Project, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the Delivering Together for Results Fund for economic development of the UN in Tanzania.

This initiative is contributing directly to the achievement of the project objectives: CO2 emission reduction and increase income generation through alternative livelihood to avoid too over-dependence on the forest resources. In addition, the activity is contributing to the reduction of conflicts between park managers and local population who have been antagonizing each other in their respective strives for income generation and sustainable natural resources management.

UNESCO works to achieve sustainable development through education to change thinking and actions in order to create resilient societies.