Benefit-sharing is the key issue
MJUMITA is a network of around 500 community forest groups in 420 Tanzanian villages in 23 districts – with an estimated 6000 individual members. Most members are small farmers or bee-keepers and other forest users living close to the Tanzanian forests, which are mainly government property. Ms. Rahima Njaidi is executive director at the MJUMITA secretariat, based in the capital Dar es Salaam, door to door with the Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group.
Why is a network of community forestry groups engaged in climate change issues? – Southern Voices News asked. "The key task for MJUMITA is to act as an advocacy platform for the communities living near the forest, on issues like forest management and governance" Rahima explains. "Now that REDD mechanisms are being introduced in Tanzania MJUMITA must ensure that the forest users are involved." Since 2009 the network has engaged its members in education on climate change and REDD through training workshops and community radio, supported through the previous Southern Voices project in the preparation towards COP15.
"The key objective in our advocacy is to ensure that forest communities receive a fair share of the benefits from the forests" Rahima states. "REDD mechanisms are now being introduced in Tanzania, and since MJUMITA is involved we are asking for representation on the national task force on REDD"
The networks were established over 10 years ago as a central element in Tanzania's policy of "participatory forest management (PFM)". PFM is divided into two components; The Community Based forest Management (CBFM) and the Joint Forest Management (JFM) where the communities help to protect the government owned forests against illegal logging and other illegal activities. In return for patrolling and protecting the forest and acting as forest guards, the communities are supposed to receive 40% of the income from the sale of forest products. "But that is not happening" Rahima says, "so they have actually been protecting the forest for nothing, as volunteers". Now MJUMITA engages in advocacy on REDD to ensure that the incomes expected from REDD mechanisms will be shared with the forest communities and provide income for their efforts.
In addition to the advocacy at national level, MJUMITA has also been engaged in promoting REDD in the international climate negotiations, and attended COP15 in Copenhagen and COP16 in Cancun. "We have joined forces with likeminded organisations in the Accra Caucus" Rahima explains. The Accra Caucus is a loose network of Southern and Northern NGOs working on forest issues and REDD in the climate negotiations. "Here we are also focusing on benefit sharing. It is important that REDD rules will commit governments and other actors to respect the rights of the people living off the forest." Rahima mentions, "it has really been useful to share experiences with NGOs from other countries working on protecting the forests – like us, particularly with forest user groups in Nepal."
In 2009 MJUMITA became involved in a REDD project with the support of the Norwegian embassy. The purpose is to see if the REDD mechanism through the carbon-market can provide income to forest communities in return for their efforts in protecting forest areas. "The project is still in the initial stage and the results remain to be seen" Rahima says. The Government of Tanzania, however, is not in favour of market-based REDD solutions, they prefer the REDD projects based on donor funding. "So we ask the government to include both carbon-market and donor funding as options in the Government Policy." Rahima says finishing the interview.