Forest policy to regulate charcoal trade.

Apr. 24, 2015. The Guardian, Tanzania.

The government has said that the upcoming forest policy will address issues that aim to regulate charcoal business which many stakeholders, including Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) and CUTS International through the PACT EAC project, have identified as a threat to environmental sustainability.

Through the “Promoting Agriculture, Climate and Trade Linkages in the EAC” project, ESRF and CUTS International Geneva, have successfully campaigned for a revised forest policy in Tanzania to increase regulation of charcoal business for environmental sustainability.

Speaking after opening the seventh PACT EAC National Reference Group meeting in Dar es Salam last weekend, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Adelheim Meru, explained that the upcoming forest policy will minimise forest degradation and damage to the environment.

“I am pleased to know that ESRF joined hands with Mtwara and Njombe Local government Authorities (LGAs) to support the mainstreaming of charcoal related activities in the formulation and implementation of District Development Plans (DDPs). This being implemented at the district level, we stand to see a great reduction in forest degradation in the country,” he said.

He added: “Everybody should also be conscious that leveraging trade as an instrument to secure food security in the face of climate change not only requires pro-active involvement of national and regional stakeholders, but also effective participation in multilateral trade negotiations”.

He pointed out that at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the ongoing Doha Round negotiations are shaping tomorrow’s framework for the countries to trade with the rest of the world.

“However, our missions to the WTO face many challenges to their effective participation and are overwhelmed with a work schedule that requires a follow-up of numerous complex issues. We are pleased to see that CUTS and ESRF have contributed to address this gap by regularly providing technical support to our missions in Geneva,” he said.

He further stated: “I am aware that the current project is in its final stages. However, we urge Development Partners, such as the Sweden government who supported this first phase, to continue extending a hand to ESRF and CUTS International so as to further implement the follow-up project. It is our conviction that we should build on the momentum created by the present successes of the project to further develop our domestic capacities to holistically deal with these important issues”.

He insisted: “This would be particularly important at a time when our countries are implementing the EAC Industrialisation Policy, where a holistic approach to climate, agriculture and trade will be critical in achieving the objective of unleashing East Africa’s potential for agro-processing.”

For her part, Monica A. Kagya, the Acting Assistant Director, Beekeeping Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism said wood fuel in Tanzania is characterised by very fragile governance and weak law enforcement, adding that it is almost a free access to wood resources.

“Generally, wood resources are illegally and unsustainably harvested through the use of poor technologies. With licenses and levies being increasingly evaded, this makes the sector highly informal, almost totally unregulated, and open to any and all who wish to participate in it,” she said.

She added: “Leading to deforestation and forest degradation and weak governance has led the charcoal trade industry to become the second main cause of deforestation – which is a worsening factor of climate change - in the country. ESRF and MNRT regularly held consultations on addressing this issue in the revised forest policy.”

She underscored that the draft policy has four policy issues, 28 of which are focus areas and 35 are policy statement as well as charcoal issues are properly addressed under wood fuel as focus area No. 3.3.2.

“Charcoal issues have also been mentioned in several areas of the draft document and the draft policy recognizes wood fuel as the main source of energy both in rural and urban areas,” she said.

She however pointed out urgent measures that need to be taken currently as charcoal consumption will continue to increase with the rising population due to unavailability of appropriate alternative and affordable source of energy.

With the ongoing exploration of natural gas, she was optimistic that this may serve to be the best alternative energy source but only if made easily available and accessible by everyone in the country; including people in the urban and rural settings.

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