Tanzania:Rufiji Delta Project Still On

by Finnigan Wa Simbeye

Replacing community conservation of mangrove forests at Rufiji delta in favour of fortress conservation by the state to meet carbon trading needs will not work.

Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is a climate change mitigation initiative that seeks to integrate tropical forests into market-based carbon sequestration schemes to counter the effects of global climate change.

Betsy Beymer-Farris and Thomas Bassett who are Assistant Professor at Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Furman University in South Carolina and Professor, Department of Geography at University of Illinois respectively, said in their recent report that stopping the Warufiji from cultivating in the delta in readiness for REDD+ as proposed by World Wildlife Fund for nature, is counterproductive.

The report which is titled, ‘The REDD Menace: Resurgent protectionism in Tanzania’s mangrove forests,’ censures WWF researcher and authorities for trying to stop Warufiji from surviving by using resources in the delta despite their existence for centuries.

“At the centre of our critique of the REDD-readiness programme is the framing of the environmental problem in project documents in which the Warufiji are depicted by foresters, environmentalists, and donors as poor stewards of the mangrove forests,” the two authors wrote in the report.

Dismissing WWF’s REDD-Readiness Programme which recommends restrictions against Warufiji activities in the delta, Professors Beymer-Farris and Bassett warn that fortress conservation targeting carbon credit trade under REDD will never succeed without community involvement.

“Our counter-narrative provides an alternative environmental history that presents the Warufiji in a very different light. It also highlights the politics of environmental knowledge in which carbon forestry is presented as a sustainable alternative to indigenous resource management practices which are demeaned as destructive and illegal,” the authors argued.

Profs Beymer-Farris and Bassett suggest that a major consequence of the historical framing is a paradigmatic shift in natural resource conservation from community-based natural resource management to fortress conservation, a shift that has been aptly called resurgent protectionism.

The government through Mangrove Management Project ordered Rufiji delta communities to stop any activities in the mangrove forest conservation area which was declared a Ramsar Site in 2004. The MMP Director, Zawadi Mbwambo, said people are being evicted from the forest reserve and not their villages.

“We are evicting them from the forest reserve which they invaded, we have not torched anybody’s house at the village,” Mr Mbwambo told ‘Daily News’ last weekend arguing that the residents’ activities are threatening existence of the forest reserve.

Rufiji district is home to 78 per cent of the country’s 68,000 hectares of mangrove forests of which 5,000 hectares are already cleared by the more than 9,000 residents.

 

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