Segoma forest reserve with an area of 2186 ha is located in Mkinga District in Tanga region. This forest is surrounded by six villages namely Segoma, Kambai, Kuze-Kibago, Churwa, Mhinduro and Bamba villages. This forest has been in the threat of extermination for so long due to illegal timber harvesting, clearing of forest buffer zones and cutting down tree to be used as fire wood and pole for house construction. This destructive activity has been spearheaded by community living adjacent to the forest in the name of sustaining their lives under the umbrella of having not any other income generating activities. Illegal timber harvesting in this forest is the leading destructive activity and it has persisted for so long now being fore fronted by village leaders surrounding the forest. Villagers are also involved in the activity in one or another. For example Mr. Rashid Choya a Maramba village resident said, women in the villages surrounding the forest used to be hired to carry illegally harvested timber from the forest with the payment of 1500/= per timber per each trip and found it more fruitfully than being engaged in other activities.
Speaking to Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) staffs, Young Environmentalist Trainee from WWF Tanzania Programme Office attached with TFCG and Journalist when we visited Mkinga district council, the District Land, Environment and Natural Resource Officer Mr. Cheyo Nkelege, acknowledged Segoma forest problem to have disturbed the district authority for so long. He said, so as to deal with the problem, there are actions that the district under its forest department has taken so far. Among the action taken are frequent patrols in the area on illegal logging that has led to impounding of a lot of timber harvested illegally in the forest. He added that from 1st July to 30 December 2007, Mkinga District Commissioner Mr. Deodatus banned harvesting of all forest products in Mkinga district in a way to fight against the problem. “Though illegal timber harvesting is still going on, but it has started slowing down as compared with some few years as a result of education campaign, patrols and collaboration with other stakeholder like TFCG to educate people on the effect of cutting down trees” said Mr. Cheyo.
After realizing the settings of this problem, TFCG in addition to its East Usambara Forest Landscape Restoration Project, a partnership project between TFCG and WWF TPO, launched a special programme to educate people living adjacent to Segoma forest on forest policy, forest act, advocacy and good governance in forest management as the way to halt the problem. WWF TPO funds this special programme under its programme to strengthen environmental civil society organization of Tanzania (CSOP). This programme was devised after realizing that many people around this reserved forest do not bother to protect the forest as most of them were found not to have knowledge of forest policy, laws governing the forest as well as governance proceeding regarding forest management. The trainings process went on successfully and TFCG conducted a workshop that involved village governments surrounding Segoma forest, Natural resource committees from the same villages, three community networks within the area, district forest catchments authority and district forest department so as to come out with an action plan and a way forward to halt Segoma forest destruction. Participants of this workshop came from Churwa, Mhinduro, Bamba, Kuze and Segoma villages those sorrounding the forest. On the other hand three local networks were MTAHIMKAKI (Mtandao wa uhifadhi mazingira kata ya Kigongoi), SHIWAMAMA (Shirikisho la uhifadhi mazingira kata ya Maramba) and UMAKAM (Umoja wa uhifadhi mazingira kata ya Mhinduro).
Among the actions that were agreed upon was to have a joint forest committee that will be composed of members from all villages surrounding the forest and the committee will be responsible with patrols within the forest in collaboration with the department of forest in Mkinga district. On the other hand the committee will work together with the district to strengthen all checkpoints and adding other checkpoints to break all routes used by poachers to sneak away with illegally harvested forest products from Segoma forest. It was also agreed upon that more sensitization is still needed on the ways of earning their living instead of depending on Segoma forest. Among other income generating activities that has been opted so far, are beekeeping, pond fishing and cash crop farming. Explaining this in details during the workshop, Mr. Rashid Choya a Maramba resident said beekeeping is one of the activities that will fetch tem better income compared to other sources. He said the price of honey has now risen from Tshs 1800 to 3000 per liter so this encouraged us to engage in the business. Adding to this Mr. Choya said TFCG that has introduced the beekeeping project in our village is giving out five beehives free of charge to the one who constructs five beehives. Another alternative income generating activities having been opted so far by many people in those villages is Ocimum kilimascharica cash crop plantation known is Swahili as “Mfuto”. The leaves of this crop produce oil that is used to manufacture painkillers medicine, anti-histamine medicine that treats flue and other many products. The market of this crop is based in Nairobi Kenya by ICIPE Company. One kilogram of leaves is sold at Tshs 250 to 1250. One acre of Ocimum plantation is projected to give out 6570 kilogram to 10500 kilogram of leaves. This has been a good venture for the villagers to engage in to sustain their lives.
Speaking to the workshop Mr. Mwarabu Jumbe Mwarabu an acting district Forest Officer thanked TFCG and WWF TPO for the undertaking they have been doing so far and promised to collaborate with Segoma forest stakeholders in the implementation of the action plan that was agreed upon. “This is the participatory forest management we are always speaking”. Said Mr. Mwarabu.