No More health Challenges for Machemba Village: A reap from Participatory Forest Management!
Just as other villages in Tanzania Machemba faces a lot of challenges including lack of reliable water and rains for everyday use as well as for agriculture, lack of sufficient energy and of course lack of reliable medical services.
Machemba village has only one medical centre which has no nurse and has just one doctor. If someone wants better medical services he has to travel for about 10 kilometers to the next village where he is expected to most of the time pay for the medical expenses.
The first thing you see when you are about to enter into the village is a big signboard telling you that this village has a land reserve forest which is managed by the community for the community’s benefit.
The land reserve forest at Machemba village is 4612HA and was established in 2007 with the support from the Tunduru District Council. WWF Tanzania with partners (MJUMITA and MCDI) came in in 2015 and helped with analyzing the types of trees and marking boundaries of the forest which at this point was flourishing thanks to the efforts put in in by the community at Machemba with leadership from the natural resources committee as well as the village leadership.
Finally in 2015 the community got to benefit from their hard labour of taking care of the reserve forest and they have not looked back! After only two years they have managed to pay health and medical insurance for more than 60 families in the village. 5 family members from these households can now get medical services in the village dispensary and in other nearby villages.
Mwanaidi Mustapha is one of the health insurance beneficiaries. She is a single mother of five children, the oldest being fifteen and the youngest barely three years. She is a small time farmer with just a small piece of land outside her home. She has two 100kgs bags of pigeon peas which she has not been able to sell, because there are no customers. She is so grateful for the health insurance. In an emotional voice she narrates that last year she almost lost her youngest daughter because she had no money to pay for her treatment. “I was so desperate my daughter had very high fever but I could not take her to the hospital because I had no money, I tried to borrow from my neighbors but they also had nothing and could not help me. Eventually the village chairman went to the dispensary and begged the doctor to treat my daughter and that is what saved her! Am so grateful for the health insurance because now I I am assured that my kids will be safe as we are sure of getting treatment. Now I understand why it is important to have these reserve forests and take good care of them”!
Apart from the medical insurance all the kids who go school in Machemba village are provided by porridge every day and the construction for the market place is almost completed. The market will accommodate 20 business people.
Machemba is one of the seven villages in Tunduru district which have reserve forests under the participatory forest management plan. Other villages are Sautimoja, Ngapa, Mshinji, Mindu, Songambele and Wamakambale. Some of these villages like Machemba have already benefitted from these forests while others are still waiting for the trees to get the right width before harvesting.
All is not rosy though; these villages have some challenges which thwart them from getting the most from their protected forests. Mohamed Makonyola is the Chairman for the natural resources committee at Machemba village, he narrates the challenges they face as not having reliable customers or markets for their forests products. “We want in the future to undertake harvesting of forests at the village level and sell the timber ourselves unlike now where a customer will usually go through the whole harvesting process himself. This way the villages will be able to get more profit and a sure market for the timber but at the same time this will create more jobs for our people in the villages”. He says.
The notion of participatory forest management in Tanzania as provided by the national forest policy and supported by the legislation has been a sound strategy under the Ministry of natural resources and tourism in the management and conservation of forests. It was initiated under the National Forest Policy of 1998.
The concept is divided into Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Community Based Forest Management (CBFM). The later gives the sole aim of giving rights and ownerships to the communities by 100 per cent.
WWF Tanzania Forest Programme works with the communities, local partners and the government to makes sure there is a collective forest management which enables communities, individuals and groups to take full ownership, with tenure rights and responsibilities to manage forests under their jurisdiction village lands and in collaboration with government authorities in protected areas.
Forests support livelihoods of 87% of rural households in Tanzania in terms of income and services, provide 90% of energy used in the country (biomass & charcoal) and perform vital ecosystem service functions in terms of water catchment and storage and biodiversity maintenance. Coastal Forests and Eastern Arc Mountain forests have long been identified as globally significant centres of biodiversity and sources of economic goods and services.
There has been a shift of emphasis in forest management policy in Tanzania since the 1990s whereby government control (through national & some district forest reserves) has been increasingly complemented with participatory co-management through joint forest management (JFM); and community-based forest management (CBFM) through village land forest reserves (VLFRs), which variously decentralize management to give a much stronger role to local communities.