The landscape of Western Tanzania is seriously threatened by incompatible development, unsustainable farming techniques, destructive and uncontrolled wildfires, and inadequate local capacity to establish and enforce more environmentally friendly land use policies and practices. Gradual encroachment has caused significant negative impact on sustainable development and habitat preservation in the region. Co-presented by Mtiti and Brown, the discussion focused on how the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners are working with authorities from the village to the national level in a land use planning process to address on-going threats.
Available opportunities exist within the country policy framework to improve management of critical ecosystems in Western Tanzania and reduce conflicts in the utilization of forests while improving the livelihoods of the local population. Through an intense participatory process, JGI and Frankfurt Zoological Society have completed 63 village land use plans and 37 village land forest reserves in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem. This contributes to the process of integrating local planning with regional and national natural resource planning and management. Brown shared that the recently completed 15 month survey for assessing critical chimpanzee habitat is being used by government officials to identify priority conservation sites and reach consensus regarding the conservation status for each of those sites within the Greater Mahale Ecosystem. This information is being used to define the most critical forest protection sites for existing chimpanzee populations and for connectivity within this broader ecosystem. The resulting knowledge is being discussed with district and higher government officials to consider the value of the resource inventory and implications for management, local livelihoods and conservation. A forest protection blue-print will be produced that will result in the creation of new protected areasvillage forest reserves and national forest reserves.
Mtiti emphasized that the most challenging issue for land tenure in Tanzania is in poor management, rather than a need to reform the constitution. It is important for villagers to develop village land use plans and to register clearly demarcated land, thereby avoid land grabs especially in densely populated areas. Having done this, villagers can pursue customary land use rights that are legally binding that could be honored as collateral for bank loans.