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Nou Forest blog

7 July 2015

Dominic Timms reports from Tanzania's Nou Forest, where Farm Africa is working with local communities to develop forest-friendly enterprises such as mushroom farming, raffia weaving and beekeeping.

It’s sunny down in the valley, chequer-boarded with fields of vegetables, maize and sorghum but as we climb slowly upwards towards the forest the cold starts to draw in.

As the car struggles with the undulating orange-mud track, we notice thicker forest cover and decreasing evidence of manmade intervention. Here the forest looks like it would have been for centuries, an expanse of foliated cover stretching for miles in all directions.

Further down the valley it’s a different story. People, mostly poor and struggling to make a living, have cleared tracks to start small holder farming.

On the steep climb up evidence of deforestation is all too apparent. A landslide due to clearing shows how fragile this landscape has now become. Farmers clear forest to grow crops and build houses. This has an effect not just in the immediate area but far down the valley.

The most powerful but least observable effect is on water flow. Trees act as a reservoir for fresh water, trapping it in the soil to release it slowly into rivers that supply millions of farmers and villagers further down-stream.

Farm Africa has been developing innovative ways to conserve the forest, recognising that the old “command and control” options ie trying to preserve forests by simply protecting them, have not really worked.

Since the mid-1990s, Farm Africa has been leading the development and application of a new approach to forest management that emphasises joint partnerships between local forest communities and government. 

Instead of trying to protect forests by keeping people out or encouraging them to do other  activities, Participatory Forest Management (PFM) seeks to strike a balance between forest conservation and the economic activities of local people that depend on them - you can read more about this approach in our latest forestry report.

We help identify and develop viable and profitable forest-based enterprises such as producing honey, mushrooms, raffia and wild coffee then provide targeted capacity building to enable these enterprises to grow.

We believe that only when local people are given an economic incentive to manage and protect forests, will deforestation and the impact that has for millions of other people, begin to reverse.