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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.”
                —Rachel Carson

(cont.from p.4)
is to replace old and disease-prone trees with new varieties to energize the coffee sector on Kilimanjaro.

Future Plans: Several years ago, Sebastian was awarded a hectare (about 2 1/2 acres) lot of land on the northern side of Moshi as compensation for his community service by the Town Council of Moshi. This year the ABCP fenced the area and is drawing up a plan to create an educational center, which would have a central building with a conference hall, media center, library, offices and kitchen facilities, for seminars, and on the surrounding grounds a number of nurseries, a greenhouse and a building for a permanent groundskeeper.

Activities would include hosting educational tours and classes for students from schools in Arusha and Moshi, and holding seminars for adults on such topics as organic farming, tree cultivation, municipal beautification, leadership training in community-based conservation, and livelihood diversification strategies, i.e., bee-keeping, fruit tree horticulture and the building of energy efficient stoves.

A primary objective of the center will be to offer training in occupational pursuits that simultaneously provide income and protect the delicate ecosystems of the Kilimanjaro area. Another focus will be mpingo conservation. We hope to increase our production and outreach since this will be a new location.

This project has the ongoing support of our seven Project Partners. Working together we feel that we can help make a difference in the lives of the people and the natural environment of the Kilimanjaro area. A mock-up of the building and grounds can be seen on our website at: www.blackwoodconservation.org/project.html. 

New Threats to Mpingo Loom as China
Becomes World Leader in Importing Hardwoods

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Mkapa Bridge over Rufiji River in southeast Tanzania, opened for traffic in 2003.

As one of the most exquisite and expensive woods in the world, mpingo is also one of the slowest growing commercially useful trees to reach harvestable maturity. It has been exported from Africa since antiquity, and in modern times, with exponentially expanded world transport, its future is in serious jeopardy. Already commercially extinct in Kenya and many parts of northern Tanzania, a new threat is emerging as a result of the construction of the Mkapa Bridge over the Rufiji River in southern Tanzania. Within days of its opening in 2003 a logging boom began and scores of containers of often illegally harvested wood ended up in the port of Dar es Salaam.

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Logs set for transport seized by Tanzanian government agents just north of Rufiji River soon after the opening of the Mkapa Bridge.

Alarmed by these developments, over the next 3 years, Tanzanian forestry officials imposed bans, halted shipments and drew up new regulations and oversight activities to stem the huge losses in revenue and natural resources, losses for both the government and the local communities managing the woodlands. A key player is China, now the largest importer of wood products in the world, since its own decision to ban in-country harvesting after excessive erosion from tree harvesting caused devastating floods in the Yangtze and Yellow River basins. In 2005 Tanzania was Africa’s 6th largest timber exporter to China, its trade having increased by 1386% since 1997.

Mpingo is always a highly targeted resource and even during the recent bans, some mpingo suppliers received special “off the record” permission to continue their trade. And alarmingly, new uses are being found, as manufacturers in China and Japan are now milling the wood for parquet flooring. Unfortunately it is seldom the people of Tanzania who are justly rewarded, as whole trees are often sold at US $0.50-2.00. The reasons for such over-exploitation of the nation’s resources are many, but underlying everything is poverty. With a yearly income of $240 and relatively high living expenses the average Tanzanian family needs several breadwinners in order to make ends meet. Hence, the selling of natural resources can sometimes be the only way to support a family. The government is likewise impoverished, having been strapped by debt since the 1970’s and often enduring unfavorable terms of trade on the world market for its commodities.

The ABCP is approaching the problem from several vantage points, educating local communities about the value of the tree, sponsoring replanting programs, teaching sustainable harvest techniques, and alerting the larger world to the fact that when this priceless resource is gone, it will be multiple lifetimes until it can once again be revitalized.

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ABCP Website maintained by James E. Harris, 2000.
Last revised 21 Apr 2008.