Hope for the future; tree planting in Vunta Village, Same District, Kilimanjaro RegionJul 1, 2015
Conventional knowledge is that one expects more rainfall on highlands than lowlands. However, that’s not the case with Vunta Village, Mabilioni in Same district for several decades. For an area that is which is 1,200 meters above sea level, it is believed that the shortage of expected rainfall results from human activities, especially tree-feeling for timber business as a way to earn income. As years passed by, the area experienced less rain, something that prompted stakeholders to take action by forming Nyota ya Mazingira, a group that is committed to mitigating the effects of the environmental degradation. According to the chairman, Mr. Karia Modika “the situation was bad, getting worse by the day, so we met with the Village Environmental Committee and resorted to form the group in October 2012 with objectives to stop tree cutting, and plant trees. Beekeeping was also initiated as a tool to scare off people that cut trees unscrupulously. Group members, 28 in number, are committed to change things in the village and in the neighbouring neighbouring ones”.
The group establishes nurseries, plant trees, and raises awareness among the public the effects of deforestation. In addition to establishing its own nurseries, it obtains seeds and seedlings from Same District Council Agricultural Department. Mr. Modika says the district officials, with support of UNDP, through the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Project being implemented in the Kilimanjaro Region, have been training the group on best ways to establish nurseries and plant trees. Tree planting is targeting educational and health institutions, apart from village forests and individual farms.
By January 2015 the group had planted 1,500 trees to protect water sources, 3,600 trees at plots owned by individual members. The development is good; it is gaining momentum and villagers are happy because survival rate of the trees is more than 80%. The target was to plant 10,000 trees in Vunta Ward but has been able to plant 12,000 trees by January 2015. They sell seedlings at a mere TZS 300.00 just to cover production costs. At market price, they would sell one seedling between TZS 1,000.00 and TZS 2,000.00.
Besides proceeds from sale of seedlings, the group also earns money from sale of honey, bees wax, and manufacturing of beehives. The group received has 30 modern Top Bar beehives that the SLM Project offered them for purposes of demonstrating new methods of beekeeping. Prior to the offer, the group had 50 local ones, which are not as good as the new ones. Production from local beehives is lower than that of modern ones. For example, a local hive yields about five liters of honey or less per year depending on its size, a modern one on the other hand produces 12 to 15 liters. In 2014 the group harvested a total of 200 liters of honey that is sold at between TZS 10,000 to TZS 12,000.00 per liter. Beeswax also sells more or less at the same price. To date, the total value from the two products exceeds TZS 3,000,000.00. Plans are underway to package honey and wax in containers recommended by the Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO). That way, the packaging will also be in conformity with Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS).
As part sustainability of the beekeeping activity, the members engage in making modern beehives, which they learnt from Olmotony Forestry Institute in Arusha region where they trained with support from UNDP. To emphasis its campaign against deforestation, the group is manufacturing the hives are from used planks. Most of the beehives are sold within Same, but some are taken to other districts, Rombo, for example. Each hive is sold between TZS 65,000.00 to TZS 70,000.00. In 2014, the group sold a total 40. Given that the SLM Project links groups with financial institutions, the Nyota ya Mazingira group is on course to open an account with NMB Bank and construct an office building.
The beekeeping specialist in Same District, Mr Nandi Rupia says the group has gone further to assist people of a nearby village Kidunda to establish an apiary with eight beehives and one tree nursery. “The village does not fall under Vunta Mabilioni Catchment, therefore this is a spillover effect. The group has also assisted some widows with interest to conserve the environment by planting trees and have since formed their own group. They operate from the same area, near the village headquarters.” He promises that environmental conservation will continue even after the project phases out. He notes that Vunta is slowly, but surely regaining its greenish scenery, with it the hope that the rainfall pattern will revert back to that of decades ago notwithstanding the changing climate. The Same District Commissioner, Mr Herman Kapufi has also been on the forefront in promoting environmental conversation. Mr Kapufi, a teacher by profession, says he personally visits some environmental groups together with the District Defense and Security Committee to monitor detrimental activities and identify the culprits.