East Usambara Mountains, a forest gem
The East Usambara Mountains have been described as the jewel in the crown of the Eastern Arc. With seven strictly endemic vertebrates and 35 Eastern Arc endemic vertebrates the mountains have an extraordinarily high level of endemism given their small area. The forests are also a vital source of fuel wood, building materials, food and water for the people that live there. The mountains are also an important source of water for the people of Tanga. The biodiversity of the East Usambara Mountains are under pressure from fire, expansion of agricultural land, logging, artesenal mining, commercial firewood collection and hunting.
Creating forest bridges
Much of the forest in the East Usambara Mountains lies within reserves managed by the Central Government. These forests are highly fragmented, often linked to each other by only a thread of forest. This means that many of the species found in these forests struggle to travel from one forest to another. They have become isolated. TFCG is working hard to restore connectivity between these forest islands. By working with the local communities, TFCG has succeeded in supporting the establishment of 16 village forest reserves which help to protect the critical forest bridges. TFCG has also supported a massive tree planting campaign in the critical corridor areas. By providing training on agroforestry and tree planting, farmers have been given the skills and resources to plant over a million trees. In some villages up to 86% of households have planted tree crops.
TFCG’s work in the East Usambara Mountains has provided opportunities for women and men to improve their lives by adopting better agricultural techniques and by providing new business opportunities including modern honey production and butterfly farming.
In a recent survey, 97% of villagers stated that the East Usambara forest reserves were beneficial to their lives. By creating awareness and raising the profile of forest conservation, TFCG have been strengthening the voices of people committed to protecting the forests. For example TFCG has been helping local villages to develop and implement strategies to tackle fire, illegal logging, mining and firewood collection and riverbank conservation. The project has also worked closely with local drama groups, choirs, poets and artists to incorporate forest conservation messages in their work in order to raise the profile of forest conservation. TFCG has also been training teachers in environmental education.
Working in partnership
In the East Usambara Mountains, TFCG works in close partnership with WWF, Muheza District Council and Mkinga District Council.