Bridging nature and community: JGI’s sustainable conservation efforts in western Tanzania

Tanzania is home to 2,200 chimpanzees, with at least 60% of them facing pressure from a poverty-stricken human population.  Photo | Stephano Lihedule

What you need to know:

  • According to Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), Tanzania is home to 2,200 chimpanzees, with at least 60 per cent of them facing pressure from a poverty-stricken human population.
  • Habitat frag­mentation due to illegal logging, settlement expansion, overgraz­ing, charcoal burning, and con­version of forest to farmland pos­es significant threats to chimpan­zees and other wildlife, while also contributing to climate change.

By Robin Holzhauer

Tanzania, known for its ded­ication to conservation, has allocated nearly one-third of its 945,087-square-kilometre area to be conserved, distinguishing itself as a global leader in nature preser­vation. Despite this commitment, the journey is fraught with chal­lenges, as many local communi­ties remain reluctant to engage in conservation efforts.

The remnants of colonial regimes’ harsh methods still lin­ger, fostering a sense of hostili­ty towards conservation initia­tives. Coupled with the growing demand for land, and overpopu­lation, these factors exacerbate human-wildlife conflicts, leading some communities to challenge conservationists for prioritizing nature over human needs.

Over three decades ago, Dr. Jane Goodall, renowned primate advocate, faced a new challenge as the chimpanzee habitat in Gombe was under increasing threat.

This spurred her to conceive the Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education (TACARE) program, envisioning a sustainable future where chim­panzee conservation was inter­twined with empowering local communities as leaders and stew­ards of their lands.

According to Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), Tanzania is home to 2,200 chimpanzees, with at least 60 per cent of them facing pressure from a poverty-stricken human population. Habitat frag­mentation due to illegal logging, settlement expansion, overgraz­ing, charcoal burning, and con­version of forest to farmland pos­es significant threats to chimpan­zees and other wildlife, while also contributing to climate change.

Habitat fragmentation due to illegal logging, settlement expansion, overgrazing, charcoal burning, and conversion of forest to farmland poses significant threats to chimpanzees and other wildlife. Photo | Stephano Lihedule.

The JGI Approach: Commu­nity-Centered Conservation

In response, in the early 1990s the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) adopted an approach to conser­vation by working through the community. This communi­ty-centered approach engaged smallholder farmers in sustaina­ble practices such as agroforest­ry, contour farming, and compost manure application, by which JGI aimed to balance the needs of both chimpanzees and local com­munities.

Dr. Shadrack Kamenya, JGI Tanzania’s Conservation Science Director, recalls that farmers previously cleared riverine for­ests for short-term agricultural gains, leading to loss of soil fertil­ity which drove further deforesta­tion. However, interventions like the USAID Landscape Conserva­tion in Western Tanzania initia­tive, funded with $20 million from USAID, have shown promising results.

Training in sustainable farming practices has significantly boost­ed agricultural yields. Farmers reported harvests up to 200 per­cent higher after applying com­post manure, which retained water even during dry spells.

This project spanned 74 villag­es in Kigoma and Katavi regions capturing such areas as the refu­gee settlements of Mishamo and Katumba, addressing issues such as natural resources governance, family planning and reproductive health education, gender equi­ty and social inclusion, land use planning, environmental con­servation education for children, and behavior change campaign grounded in composting to reduce the impact of shifting farming in the riverine areas of the land­scape.

JGI’s integrative approach not only reduced deforestation by 60 percent but also benefited 253,000 people through sustain­able natural resource manage­ment. Achievements include the conservation of 1.8 million hec­tares of land, supporting Uvinza and Tanganyika district councils to establish two local authority forest reserves, and creation of Community Conservation Banks (COCOBA groups), which by the end of 2023 had over 9,000 members who had mobilized over Tsh.1.2 billion shillings as source of cheap loans for running envi­ronmentally friendly micro enter­prises.

TACARE’s Role in Conserva­tion and Community Empow­erment

The TACARE program, initiat­ed by Dr. Jane Goodall in 1994, highlights the importance of empowering local communities to conserve the natural resources on which they depend. The program focuses on engaging communities in sustainable practices, ensur­ing that conservation efforts are both inclusive and effective. Now, Tacare is considered by JGI as a model for community-led conser­vation initiatives conducted by the Jane Goodall institute.

In addition to promoting agro­forestry and composting, through the Tacare model, JGI emphasizes the significance of gender equity and social Inclusion, Family plan­ning and reproductive health. These components are crucial for fostering community support and ensuring that all members, regardless of gender, can partici­pate in and benefit from conserva­tion initiatives.

Dr. Kamenya explains: “Small­holder farmers cleared the riv­erine forests to grow crops but within three years soil fertility was lost, compelling them to clear other tracts of forest.”

USAID Landscape Conserva­tion in Western Tanzania Ini­tiative

In November 2018, JGI piloted an integrated the USAID Land­scape Conservation in Western Tanzania initiative, with about $20 million in funding from the United States Agency for Inter­national Development (USAID). This initiative aimed to protect chimpanzees and their habitats in the Greater Gombe-Masito-Ugal­la ecosystem and help communi­ties adapt to the impacts of cli­mate change by improving their livelihoods.

The USAID Landscape Conser­vation in Western Tanzania initi­ative has empowered communi­ties, local authorities, and other conservation players to imple­ment sustainability measures and climate change adaptations while maintaining a hands-off approach.

High priority on the five-year drive was training smallholder farmers to apply compost through a robust social marketing thea­tre-driven behavior change cam­paign sloganed, ‘Tunza Udongo, Tunza Familia, Tunza Mazingira’ (with literal translation ‘Care for the soil, Care for the Family, Care for the Environment’) to improve soil fertility management so as to discourage shifting agriculture from further fragmenting the chimpanzees’ habitat in the land­scape.

Extension Service Agent, Tanganyika District Council, Katavi Region Ramadhan Shiganza speaks at the meeting with the communities sur­rounding the Gombe National Park. Photo | Michael Pandisha.

Unlike costly and soil-damag­ing artificial fertilizers, compost manure comprises all the essen­tial elements for crop growth, namely Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK), and can last long in the farm, being applied only once to support crop growth and farmers can produce it using locally available materials.

Results so far have been promis­ing, with compost manure retain­ing water even during dry spells in the once-infertile farms, enabling farmers to harvest between 100 percent and 200 percent more than they did before applying the manure.

Dr. Kamenya adds: “Village nursery attendants have even been setting goals for their own thriving seedlings business with minimum supervision from the JGI and district council’s experts.”

The substantial progress made has encouraged USAID to sign a cooperative agreement with JGI-Tanzania for a follow-on worth $29.5 million, the USAID Hope through Action project, aiming to deepen and expand con­servation efforts to 104 villages and by intensifying climate-smart agricultural practices with a gen­der lens.

Community Involvement and Sustainable Practices

The integrative drive covers 74 villages in four district councils of Kigoma and Katavi region and addition of 30 villages in Misha­mo and Katumba settlements in Tanganyika and Mpanda districts in Katavi region, incorporated an array of crosscutting areas in addition to intensification of women led climate smart agricul­ture, including Climate Change Adaptation, Gender Equity and Social Inclusion, Data Science and Knowledge Management and Inspiring Communication through Storytelling.

An important element of the program is land use planning, whereby each village had estab­lished its own agricultural zone to limit shifting cultivation. A typi­cal village land use plan, valued at least at Sh19 million, demarcates zones earmarked for settlement, for farming, for conservation as village land forest reserve, and for other uses as the community decides.

Conservationists advised vil­lagers not only to plant and tend new tree seedlings but also to let old stumps of the clear-felled miombo woodland sprout for the natural forest to regenerate. Health, gender, and equity experts from district councils in the pro­ject area counseled villagers to keep manageable family size and to discard stereotypes inhibiting women and youth from effectively contributing to the conservation agenda.

JGI Tanzania Communications and Storytelling lead, Robert Mkosamali notes: “Studies show the interventions and adapta­tion measures for climate change have, reduced encroachment on the chimpanzees’ habitat, with deforestation of the riverine for­ests declining by 60 percent.”

Positive Outcomes and Future Prospects

On the other hand, about 253,000 people have benefited from sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation in the ecosystem. As we speak, more than 1.8 mil­lion hectares in the landscape are conserved, and two forest reserves spanning 521,000 hectares belong­ing to Uvinza and Tanganyika District Councils, namely Masito Local Authority Forest Reserve and Tongwe West Local Authority Forest Reserve, respectively, were gazzetted by the district councils through the facilitation of the Jane Goodall Institute and the generous funding of the American people through the United States Agen­cy for International Development (USAID).

Sunuka Village Compost Farmer Ms Hilda Joel (left) speaks with the Kigoma Regional Commissioner, Thobias Andengenye (right) who takes a look at her compost products made out of nature. Photo | Michael Pandisha.

Naturalized communities at Mishamo and Katumba settle­ments have teamed up into 172 Community Conservation Bank (COCOBA) groups, with 3,128 members, 1,312 being males and 1,681 females. 250 community health workers have been trained in providing family planning ser­vices, more than 21,000 (10,076 males, 11,042 female) students are engaging in environmental educa­tion in over 244 school clubs scat­tered around the landscape.

Village nursery attendants, and village forest monitors, have been recruited to ensure forest reserves remain intact, and by-law default­ers are kept at bay.

All 74 villages in the project area boast having conservation land use plans, and the chimpanzees’ transboundary freedom is being restored along the Gombe-Burun­di wildlife corridor. Supported by the project, Tanzania Meteorolog­ical Authority has installed three weather stations at Kakoso Sec­ondary School in Mpanda Town­ship, Lugufu area in Uvinza Dis­trict, and at Kalinzi area in Kigoma District to monitor weather across the landscape. The weather infor­mation is crucial for the intensifi­cation of climate smart agriculture practices in the landscape.

Addressing Challenges and Future Plans

The interventions and adapta­tions measures implemented have not only maintained the chimpan­zees’ population in the landscape but have reduced the local extinc­tion rate of the primates. Many fac­tors contribute to the extinction of chimpanzees globally, including diseases. When a hunter armed with a dog intrudes into a chim­panzees’ habitat, for instance, the chance for the primates to catch and die of the flu or any other zoonotic diseases is high.

Also limiting the growth of the chimpanzees’ population is the low birth rate of the primates. “When a chimpanzee dies, it is hard to replace it, as only one baby is born in four to five years birth inter­val, just like humans, and very few chimpanzees give birth to twins,” Dr. Kamenya explains.

However, the achievements so far accrued have prompted play­ers in the pilot drive to roll out USAID Hope through Action – a fully-fledged project which aims at deepening the gains of the USAID Landscape Conservation in West­ern Tanzania and expanding con­servation coverage within 104 villages, with USAID providing $29.5 million core funding for the project.

“We are in the process of iden­tifying an agricultural partner to bring a package of women focused climate-smart technologies in a bid to boost production in the village agricultural zones, facilitate mar­ket linkages and connecting farm­ers to commercial banks for small loans,” Dr. Kamenya explains.

Tanzanian villages near carbon offset breakthrough

By the Citizen reporter

Twenty-seven villages in west­ern Tanzania are on the verge of benefiting from over two decades of forest conservation efforts. The villages and their district councils are in the final stages of securing a lucrative carbon offset deal with Carbon Tanzania.

Experts from the Uvinza and Tanganyika district councils in Kigoma and Katavi regions, along with representatives from the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Tan­zania and Carbon Tanzania, have developed a management plan for the Masito and Tongwe West Local Authority Forest Reserves.

Spanning more than 521,000 hectares of forested land. These forest reserves have been assessed to determine their carbon stocks and to identify measures to enhance their capacity to seques­ter additional greenhouse gases.

Carbon dioxide, accounting for 76 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, traps heat in the atmosphere, leading to changes in temperature, humidity, and rain­fall patterns. Forests play a cru­cial role in absorbing these gases through photosynthesis, produc­ing energy, and releasing oxygen. Conserving forests is a natural solution to achieving Climate Change goals, as trees can remove 37 per cent of heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere.

The Uvinza and Tanganyika district councils are set to enter into a joint forest management agreement with the 27 village government councils for the management of the Masito and Tongwe West local authority for­est reserves, preceding the carbon offset deal. A contract with Car­bon Tanzania, an enterprise that invests in certified nature-based solutions for protecting land­scapes, flora, fauna, people, and the climate, will follow.

Carbon Tanzania currently implements projects such as Yae­da-Eyasi Landscape, Makame Savannah, and Ntakata Mountain, protecting forests for indigenous people, pastoralists, farmers, wild­life, and the climate. In the Masito and Tongwe West local authority forest reserves, the investor in car­bon credits will apply the Reduc­ing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) framework to promote sustaina­ble forest management.

The REDD framework, estab­lished by the United Nations Framework Convention on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC), certifies voluntary nature-based projects that reduce, avoid, or remove greenhouse gas emissions.

“The framework will allow the district and village government councils to earn revenues in return for measurable and verifiable for­est protection activities overseen by Carbon Tanzania,” says Aris­tides Kashula, JGI’s long-serving Forest Officer.

The Vice President’s Office, responsible for environmental matters, will determine the rev­enue-sharing ratio between the district and village government councils. The councils are expect­ed to generate significantly more revenue than they currently do, but this comes with responsibil­ities.

Each village must form a robust natural forest management committee to oversee the forest reserves, including patrolling to prevent wildfires, stray livestock, illegal settlers, and poachers. Over the past five years, the district and village councils have played simi­lar roles while implementing the wider USAID Landscape Conser­vation in Western Tanzania pro­ject with JGI Tanzania and other conservation players.

Since 2018, JGI, under the aus­pices of USAID, has trained the district and village councils in natural resource governance. “We conducted joint forest patrols quarterly, with JGI covering costs for vehicles, fuel, and allowances,” admits Bruno Mwaisaka, the Tan­ganyika District Council’s Natural Resources Officer.

Joint research conducted by the councils and JGI identi­fied threats to chimpanzees and reviewed village land use plans. “We have collaborated with JGI to educate villagers on reproduc­tive health, organic farming, good governance, rights and equality, and the rule of law,” says Sigunga Village Executive Officer Alfonsi­na Tambo.

Separate meetings were held for youth, women, men, and special needs groups to voice their con­cerns, with reports presented at village assemblies to find lasting solutions.

However, politically motivat­ed challenges arose during elec­tions, as leaders feared enforcing village by-laws might cost those votes. Herders from neighboring regions bribed leaders to graze in conservation zones, and refugees from war-torn countries cleared forests.

Despite these challenges, com­munity members acknowledge the benefits of the USAID Land­scape Conservation in West­ern Tanzania project. Organic farming knowledge has reduced women’s reliance on diminishing fisheries from Lake Tanganyika. “Compost manure has increased maize yields significantly, reduc­ing women’s dependence on the lake,” says Tambo.

Two Community Cooperative Banks (COCOBAs) groups with 55 members have generated income by collecting and selling mush­rooms from the forest reserves. JGI provided an 80 per cent sub­sidy for a solar dryer worth Sh680, 000 to help season and package the mushrooms for sale.

“The groups will continue col­lecting wild mushrooms to meet customer preferences,” says Nee­ma Elias, a COCOBA group leader in Katumba settlement in Katavi.

Community Forest Agent (fourth right) explains about land use management to the USAID Deputy Chief of Mission Robert A. Rcelues (fifth right) and community dwellers. Photo | Michael Pandisha.

Athumani Makana, who began beekeeping in 2005, has benefit­ed from the conservation project. Learning that artificial fertilizers and pesticides contaminated hon­ey, he now uses 2,000 modern bee hives and 300 owned by his wife in the forest reserves, producing at least 6,000 liters of pure honey each season. Upendo Honey buys this unpolluted honey at Sh3, 500 per kilogram, providing a signifi­cant income boost.

“Beekeeping pays off and chang­es lives,” says Makana, who now owns a home, a motorcycle, a chain of grinding mills, and plans to buy a vehicle and build rental apartments. The beekeeping mar­ket is serving 43 groups of bee­keepers with a total membership of 597 (476 males, 121 females) in the landscape among whom 125 are young male members.

This collaborative conservation effort promises a brighter future for the villages involved, showcas­ing the profound impact of sus­tainable natural resources man­agement on local communities.

USAID and JGI Partnership for Community-Centered Conservation

By the Citizen reporter

What is the focus of the partner­ship between USAID and JGI?

Jason: Protecting wildlife and empowering people. In 2018, we began a five-year, $20 million project, USAID Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania.

It protected chimpanzee popula­tions and their habitats, and empow­ered local communities. In 2023, the United States launched a $30 million program with JGI/Tanzania, USAID Tumaini Kupitia Vitendo (Hope Through Action).

Robin: I want to mention this is a long-term commitment. USAID began an environmental resource management program in the 1990s, the same time Jane Goodall noticed Gombe’s rapid deforestation. I mean, this happened before even Fei Toto was born. Long term.

In 2003, we partnered up and introduced communities to sus­tainable agricultural techniques. Then we expanded. We taught chil­dren eco-practices. We increased the amount of land under conservation through community-led land use planning. We restored chimpanzee habitats.

Why does the USAID and JGI partnership emphasize working with villages instead of concen­trating solely on the Gombe Park areas reserved for chimpanzees?

Jason: Chimpanzees live in forests outside of Gombe. We work with com­munities that live near those areas, so they can protect wildlife while benefit­ing from nature.

Robin: Plus, communities near Gombe derive income from conser­vation efforts. As our USAID Mission Director Craig Hart says, local govern­ance is at the heart of this partnership.

What achievements are USAID and JGI most proud of in their partnership spanning over two decades?

Robin: How we benefit the people and the environment, and show peo­ple how they benefit from a healthy ecosystem. Some stats: Nearly 253,000 people improved their incomes. Two local authority forest reserves now exist, 74 villages developed and imple­mented land use plans. We reached young people by establishing 244 envi­ronmental school clubs.

Jason: And data JGI collected shows USAID investment helped reduce the deforestation rate 55 to 60 percent.

What role do local authorities play in this partnership, and how well are they performing?

Jason: Local authorities are key. Outside of the nationally managed Gombe National Park, districts and local villages manage the land. Villages develop land-use plans in collabora­tion with district and national author­ities to ensure coordination.

Robin: USAID also directly funded JGI’s Tanzania branch, showing com­mitment to locally-led development.

What new initiatives will the Hope through Action project introduce that were not part of the Landscape Conservation in West­ern Tanzania initiative?

Jason: The project includes items about gender, agriculture, and climate change. The project also supports efforts to better collect and utilize data.

How has the ‘gender lens’ helped overcome stereotypes and barriers to community-centered conservation?

Robin: Women face obstacles to take part in decision-making. By sup­porting inclusive decision-making, women have a greater, and hopefully equal, say in decisions. Equal access is critical to Tanzania’s continued eco­nomic advancement.

Jason: By including women and youth in decision-making process­es, leaders address the groups’ con­cerns and grow from the ideas, which improves the economic status of the entire community. When women can­not participate, we leave behind the expertise of 50 percent of the popu­lation.

Are there plans to apply the JGI community-centered approach to other ecosystems facing similar challenges?

Jason: JGI pioneered a communi­ty-centered approach to conservation in Tanzania with its Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Educa­tion program. USAID’s conservation programs in Tanzania include com­munity-based decision-making as a foundational concept.

Robin: For example, the USAID Heshimu Bahari (Respect the Ocean) project strengthens community-led management of critical fish habitats, and the USAID Resilient Community Governance Project builds commu­nities’ capacity to hold institutions accountable for community and envi­ronmental needs. Americans and Tan­zanians share a desire for local input - their input - on programs in their communities. USAID promotes local input in Tanzania. Jason Ko works as a senior environment advisor at USAID/Tanzania.

Robin Holzhauer is the deputy development outreach and communi­cations advisor for USAID/Tanzania.