18 Jan 2010


FSC African blackwood logs being loading onto truck The world’s first sustainably harvested African blackwood generates new income for Tanzanian forest communities.

Some of the world’s poorest people have opened up a new source of revenue by selling the world’s first sustainably harvested African blackwood from their forests.

The timber harvest was carried out under the strict criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and is destined for woodwind instrument manufacturers in the UK.

The harvest is the first step in a new campaign called Sound and Fair which aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a fully-certified chain of custody linking village communities in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians in the UK.

The timber was felled in late 2009 in a Village Land Forest Reserve managed by Kikole village, in Kilwa District, south-eastern Tanzania. Kikole received a payment of around £1,200 in return for 15 cubic metres of African Blackwood.

Previously the community would only have received around five pence per log. In all Kikole were able to realise an income nearly 400 times more than they would have received previously on the 63 logs which were sold.

Kikole intend to spend the money they have raised on improving the road to the village, improving market access for impoverished farmers and providing local employment.

FSC-African blackwood felled during first Kikole harvestMr Mwinyimkuu Awadhi, Chairman of Kikole village, comments: “In 2009 the communities of Kikole Village we have realized for the first time the benefits from selling our own timber. All the money was paid to the villages unlike in the past where by this money would have gone to the government. We the villagers now have full control of our forest resources and we will benefit even more when we do more harvesting in the near future.”

Local resident, Mwanaisha Likoko adds: “Changes have come to our village through the forest we own and manage under our control, the money we have received will be used within our village to improve our social services.”

Kikole’s forest reserve was established in 2006 after the District Council approved a management plan which the community had prepared setting out how they intended to manage the forest sustainably.

In 2009, Kikole became the FSC certified, community-managed forest in Africa, via an FSC-group certificate managed by the Mpingo Conservation Project, the Sound and Fair campaign’s Tanzanian partner.

Neil Bridgland, Sound and Fair Campaign Manager says: “This harvest represents a sea change for forest communities in Southern Tanzania.  For the first time, they have security over their natural resources and can reap the benefits from them. The challenge now is to persuade UK classical music instrument manufacturers and users to accept FSC certified timber as standard so creating the necessary demand for African blackwood that will enable the roll-out of Kikole’s success across Southern Tanzania.”

Team carrying FSC African blackwood logs from felling pointJasper Makala, National Coordinator of MCP in Tanzania says: “Community forestry is not just about giving local people a stake in how the forests are managed, but ensuring they can reap the benefits. This is both social justice and effective conservation.”

From Kikole village, the wood will soon be taken to an FSC certified sawmill, where it will be sawn into billets for export to the UK.

Dr Azim Fazal, Director of the sawmill, Sandali Wood Industries, says: “This is a proud moment for us. Now we hope that Western buyers will embrace FSC certification and start discouraging enterprises who harvest and process irresponsibly.”

On arrival the wood must then be properly seasoned (dried out), a process which takes at least one year. It is expected that the first FSC-certified blackwood instruments will be available in the UK from summer 2011.