Investment is needed to develop a public-private partnership for ecotourism in order to restore and protect the forest reserves for future generations
Tanzania’s coastal forests have been severely degraded – urgent action is needed to restore and protect the remaining fragments for the people and species that depend on them.
The Vikindu, Pugu and Kazimzumbwi Forest Reserves, less than 20 km from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania’s former capital), are remnants of coastal forest and recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot due to their exceptional wealth of species. This includes Endangered birds such as the Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis and a plethora of endemic invertebrates, small mammals and plants. In fact, over 30% of its plant species are found nowhere else. These forests provide vital ecosystem services such as water purification and climate regulation, and are important sources of food, fuel and livelihoods for the surrounding communities. Rapid population growth in towns along the coast has led to tree felling for charcoal production, as well as illegal deforestation for agriculture and settlements. Poverty forces people to heavily extract forest products from the reserves, severely degrading the habitat.
Remaining coastal forest reserves are a crucial asset for nearby city-dwellers, not a resource to be exhausted. By engaging people in tree planting and developing ecotourism, we’re ensuring our efforts to protect and restore these reserves are sustainable.
WWF has been working with Tanzania Forest Service (TFS) to help manage and conserve the reserves to maintain their natural status and contribute to the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of local communities. So far, we have curtailed encroachment in some areas and improved the way in which the reserves are managed. However, despite these efforts, threats are still on the increase. The key constraints to effective management are inadequate and sporadic funding, and limited public awareness of the importance of these unique coastal forests. We are developing mechanisms that address this while delivering other social, environmental, economic and cultural benefits.
With Trillion Trees’ support, WWF and TFS plan to restore the Vikindu, Pugu and Kazimzumbwi forest reserves while creating ecotourism opportunities. We aim to secure sustainable funding to protect the reserves and increase the involvement of key stakeholders, while using every opportunity to promote the immense value and beauty of the forests and their endemic wildlife to local people. Early restoration efforts have already provided the opportunity to engage youth groups in tree planting, inspiring a new generation of Tanzanians to get involved in the restoration of their forests.