Forest reserve in Tanzania gets needed support

Safeguarding a forest reserve twice the size of Mahale National Park can be a huge challenge. But for one reserve, a ranger post makes a big difference.

05/10/2022, Samira Haji and Kasia Rabel

A large water basin

The Tongwe West Forest Reserve is located Near Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. Extending over 3,650 km2 it is twice the size of Mahale National Park.

Home to chimpanzees, elephants, buffalo, and Red Colobus, this is a relatively intact forest and part of the Katuma river watershed. Water flowing from here is an important lifeline for adjacent communities consisting of tens of thousands of people. The watershed is also critical in regulating the water that flows into Lake Tanganyika, Lake Katavi and the Katuma River.

© Tanganyika District Council lands department, 2017

How to protect this huge area?

Until recently the team of rangers that worked there could only temporarily camp in the forest. This reduced the amount of area they could cover and therefore their capacity to monitor the Reserve for illegal activities, such as poaching.

To overcome this challenge, FZS, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), a provider of services for sustainable development, recently supported the construction of new ranger post. This was then ceremoniously handed over on March 6th 2022, by Dr. Ezekiel Dembe, FZS Tanzania Country Director to the local Regional Commissioner.

The ranger post that will be set up in Tongwe West Forest Reserve. © Magnus Mosha

This post will be used by local patrol teams who will take turns safeguarding the Forest Reserve. The post, built near the forest boundary, will be used as a resting area, a place to store food rations, field equipment, and uniforms. Using the building as a permanent base will help rangers monitor the ecosystem, see what key species live there, and monitor for illegal activities such as charcoal production and poaching, among other tasks.

A waterfall in Tongwe West Reserve. © Magnus Mosha
A river in Tongwe West Reserve. © Magnus Mosha
A rockface in Tongwe West Reserve. © Magnus Mosha

A bright future for the Reserve

In 2019, the Tanganyika District in conjunction with 12 forest adjacent village communities became responsible for the management of the Tongwe West Forest Reserve.

Now, plans to include activities that don’t harm the ecosystem such as sustainable forestry and ecotourism, are being planned by department of economics and tourism within the regional secretariat. Such activities can provide needed income opportunities for forest management, local communities, and local government, while also benefiting the ecosystem and thereby the water lifeline.

To make sure that illegal activities such as charcoal production don’t take place, more rangers will be trained and sent out to patrol the area. With the new ranger post they will be able to cover more of the Reserve, thereby protecting the unique wilderness found here as well as sustainable livelihood opportunities.

In the future, FZS and GIZ will continue supporting this important watershed financially but also by helping install signs showing the forest boundary and building three more ranger posts.

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