Making Community Forest Enterprises Deliver for Livelihoods and Conservation in Tanzania

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Community Forest Enterprises Report Cover Page ImageTanzania has been an African pioneer in community-based forest management since the passage of the landmark 1998 National Forest Policy and 2002 Forest Act. These measures enable local communities to legally establish their own Village Land Forests Reserves (VLFRs) where local communities have broad rights over forest management and governance, including control over harvesting forest products. Over the past twenty years, at least 2.5 million hectares of village land have been established as VLFRs, enabling communities to improve forest management, better control use, and manage trade in forest products.

A critical issue in community-based forest management is the ability of rural communities to support their economic development and add value to local forest uses by developing local forest-based enterprises. During the past decade, community involvement in forest management and conservation in Tanzania has gradually shifted beyond a focus solely on local subsistence use, to a range of commercial initiatives and ventures involving community forest products.

This study carried out by Maliasili under ABCG’s Land and Resource Tenure Rights working group documents emergent community forest enterprises in Tanzania and their impacts on forest conservation and the livelihoods of local communities. The study does this by providing detailed case reviews of three different models of community forest enterprise:

  1. Sustainable timber harvesting by communities, supported by Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative, in Lindi Region and surrounding parts of southeastern Tanzania.
  2. Sustainable charcoal production by communities, as facilitated jointly by the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network (MJUMITA ) and Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group.
  3. Community partnerships for the production of carbon offsets, as developed by Carbon Tanzania in Mbulu District, and now expanding into other areas in northern and western Tanzania.

These community forest enterprise examples demonstrate significant progress in Tanzania over the past five to ten years in enabling communities that have established VLFRs to capture a growing suite of economic benefits from their forests.


  • Tanzania’s policy and legal changes instituted between 1998 and 2002 provided a clear framework for communities to secure rights over forests on village lands, through VLFRs, as well as providing communities with clear legal rights to harvest forest products. Tanzania is one of the few countries in Africa that has created such a clear legal framework for community rights to forests and forest products.

  • The community forest enterprises described in the case studies have all emerged during the past five to ten years as pilot initiatives that are gradually scaling up and delivering greater revenues to local communities in different parts of Tanzania. These enterprises are enabling rural communities to access new (carbon offsets) or growing (timber, charcoal) markets for different forest products – whilst supporting forest restoration and protection.
  • The forest enterprises in all three case studies are based on clear and legally supported steps to improve forest management through community-level planning and regulations (e.g., village by-laws, land use plans, VLFR designation etc.).

  • The distinguishing factor in the three case studies profiled is that they have been successful in beginning to tap into major local and global markets for forest products, and enable rural Tanzanian communities to access those markets, where many other initiatives have tried and failed to do this over the past 20 years.

  • Despite the important steps made in developing these economic opportunities and delivering conservation results from these community forest enterprises, all three models are as of yet relatively limited in their overall reach, both spatially in terms of the number of participating communities and VLFRs, and in terms of overall market reach and access.

  • Tanzania’s framework for community-based forest management presents enormous opportunities for integrating forest conservation, climate change mitigation through reduced deforestation, and poverty reduction in rural communities. Community forest enterprises play a pivotal role in enabling Community-Based Forest Management to deliver real economic benefits to communities and providing the financial resources needed to improve forest management in ways that reduce deforestation.

Download the full report here: Making Community Forest Enterprises Deliver for Livelihoods and Conservation in Tanzania

Contact: Fred Nelson (

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