IN 1992, environmentalists in the then Rukwa Region, took a major step aiming at, among other objectives, finding real solutions to climate change in the region, now split into Rukwa/Katavi landscape. Rukwa was, then, one of the biggest grain producers in Tanzania.
They formed the Kaengesa Environmental Conservation Society (KAESO). Some of the objectives included conducting and undertaking research either independently or in collaboration with any organisation, individuals, both within and outside the country on the causes and effects of the destruction of environment.
Others were taking concrete steps, geared towards the preservation of the environment by planting indigenous and non-indigenous trees, grasses and fruit to conserve the nature, creating awareness within the people of both, Rukwa region and other parts of the country so that they may be able to realise and visualize the problem of destruction of the environment and take remedial measures/steps and engaging in biodiversity and ecosystem management.
Some 25 years later climate change is still a problem though some achievements have been attained. These include the implementation of an environmental conservation project in water catchment areas of two wards, Kaengesa and Nderemvi.
Others are promotion of a solar cooker funded by SUAR, establishment of tree nurseries in 10 villages of Mpui and Lwiche divisions in Sumbawanga, the project funded by US Embassy – Tanzania, Campaign on tree and grass planting on river banks, funded by UNDP/Vice President Office – Tanzania, Forest Policy Advocacy funded by WWF and Agro Forest Environmental Conservation funded by New England BioLabs.
Other achievements are Tree Nursery Equipment Project funded by Friend of Tanzania USA (FOT), Conservation of Tropical rainforest (Mbizi and Ndelenvi water catchment) phase I &II funded by IUCN for Netherlands Committee, Prevention of Soil erosion along Tunduma-Sumbawanga road by planting vetiver grass funded by vetiver network, Project on The National forest Policy, 1998 and legal framework under the foundation for civil society fund Company and TaFF Beekeeping and Tree Planting project (under the Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism (Tanzania Forest Fund) is also continuing,
“The environmental situation is still bad. . It was not like this in the 1970 – 73, this is due to excessive human activities including excessive use of animals in farming, livestock keeping and mining activities,” said KAESO Director, Ozenta Pter.
He said the people of Rukwa and Katavi regions needed to take joint actions in the true fashion of Public, Private Partnership (PPP) so the new initiative being financed by IUCN National Netherlands Committee was action in the right direction.
The IUCN Netherlands representative, Mark van der Wal said that KAESO termed the process as ‘getting of silos’ and engaging in a multi-sector dialogue and creating a synergy between those groups working in the landscape.
Underlining the situation, the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) Southern Zone Chief, Godlove Mwamsojio pointed to such indications of seriousness of the situation as including loss of water in the catchments due to overgrazing, rampant felling of trees (for various purposes), unplanned settlements, agriculture and mining.
He mentioned others as destruction of ecological systems in river basins due to irrigation agriculture 90 per cent of water in Katuma River is used for Irrigation and Siltation of lakes Tanganyika and Lake Rukwa leading to decline of water depth.
“Water at the deepest point has declined from 9.5 meters to a mere 3.4 metres since the year 2000,” said Mwamsojo, adding the siltation of the lake points to serious land use problems in the catchment areas that feed the lake.
“We must address challenges in the catchment areas,” he said. An assessment made by participants to the launch, of the initiative, after a study tour of the Mpanda Gold mines and Lake Rukwa showed a number of challenges ranging from governance, policy and legal issues to a lack of community awareness.
The assessment facilitated by a Dar es Salaam University don, Dr Abdallah Henku pointed to such issues as conflicting sectoral mandates, lack of intersectoral communication, irresponsible mining and investment, improper land use or lack of land use plans and weak partnership between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the government and a general unclear communication between the people upstream and downstream.
The assessment made some suggestions for strategies that should be taken by the initiative including suggestions for a serious drive for capacity building of villagers related to land and legal issues and an intensive awareness raising.
This is important because in one instance, at Mkamba Village, the Village Executive Officer (VEO), James Swedi and some villagers reported that a decision taken by the Village Assembly to move some villagers living in an area that has been demarcated as the Village Forest was being sabotaged by some villagers with no action being taken by the village or higher authorities to force the villagers to vacate the area.
Implementation of strategy suggestions made by the participants could greatly help KAESO to overcome the challenges and score more achievements now it is getting full government and support in saving Rukwa/Katavi landscape to make it continue to be the great grain producer it was in the past years.
“We support KAESO in its work to have a sustainable development in the landscape,” the Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office dealing with Environment issues, January Makamba said when he launched the initiative.