Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) creates the foundations of the African blackwood chain of custody by managing an FSC group certificate scheme (SA-FM/COC-002151) for community-managed forests in southern Tanzania – the first of its kind in Africa.
Village forests that meet the required criteria can become FSC-certified under the group certificate and subsequently sell African blackwood through the chain of custody and benefit from the price premium.
In addition to managing the group certificate, MCDI’s works with Tanzanian forest communities spans four key areas:
1) COMMUNITY FORESTRY
• Training villagers in sustainable forestry
MCDI achieves this by establishing Village Natural Resource Committees, elected by the villagers themselves who are trained in sustainable forest management. This approach to forestry, working with local communities, is called Participatory Forest Management.
• Establishing Village Land Forest Reserves
This is key to the participatory approach that is being used by MCDI. Villages establish an area inside their territory that will be managed sustainably. MCDI helps them by aiding in marking the boundaries of the reserve, helping them to write a management plan, and in some cases mediating border disputes between communities.
• Managing the timber
Once they have established a community forest MCDI helps the community to assess its timber stocks – blackwood and other species – and to draw up a harvesting plan to allow sustainable logging. MCDI then supports communities to implement this plan and puts them in touch with cooperative saw mills.
2) COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
• Improving village management skills
If communities are to gain from selling their timber they need to manage properly the revenue they earn in this way. MCDI trains community leaders in simple management skills and financial record keeping to improve accountability and transparency in the way village funds are used. MCDI also supports communities through the decision-making process and implementation of village projects to ensure maximum benefits are realised.
• Training in techniques to reduce human-wildlife conflict
MCDI trains local people in techniques that can mitigate the problems that they have with local fauna, in particular elephants. People can deter elephants from damaging their crops by mixing elephant dung with chillies and motor oil.
• Socio-economic research
MCDI carries out research into the livelihoods of the people where it works in order to be informed about how its activities might successfully promote community development.
• Ecological research
Following its origins as a series of research expeditions, MCDI continues to carry out research into the ecology of mpingo and other timber species. This is vital as like other tropical tree species, blackwood’s biology is poorly understood.
• Participatory Methods
MCDI has considerable expertise in forest assessment and monitoring, but these sophisticated techniques are beyond the reach of rural communities, many of whom have not completed primary schooling. MCDI has therefore developed a range of approaches to simplify assessment methods to the level where community members can fully participate in assessing and monitoring their own forests.
4) RAISING AWARENESS
MCDI raises awareness in the communities where it works and in other neighbouring communities in south-eastern Tanzania. MCDI utilises a range of approaches to accomplish this including distributing leaflets, village meetings, and supporting local arts groups. Major topics covered are:
• Sustainable forestry
• The value of African blackwood
• Participatory forest management
• Forest certification
• Good governance