Meru forest reserve is allocated below Mount Meru in Arumeru district of Arusha region. It includes natural and planted tree species. The plantations are located closely to human settlements while natural forest extends to the mountain hill. The plantation area is managed by TANAPA in all areas of planting, conserving and harvesting of trees.
Presence of TANAPA in the area led to various strict methods of management as local people are not allowed to enter the forest and obtain anything for example; firewood, grasses, herbs or even vegetables. During the research conducted by COMECA we realized that majority of the local people have severely got punished and fined by TANAPA patrol team when founded in the forest whether having or without having any forest products.
Local community are demanding the management or even to be allowed to obtain some household benefits from the forest as it was in the past before the involvement of TANAPA into this. They are claiming been the custodian of the Meru scenic mountain for ages and they have been in harmony with nature and conservation ethics until when TANAPA came into management.Villagers and their leaders in Nkoanrua Ward are claiming that even when they need building materials for schools from the forest they are not allowed to take and even if they write a letter to ask permission also they are not given. The chairperson of Loita Nkoamala sub village Mr. Elisa Massawe said that they requested for materials for building Ward Secondary School (Nkoanrua Secondary school) but not given.
The conflict between the local community and government is due to poor accountability and non participatory towards forest management. Government through TANAPA is conducting projects within Meru Forest Reserve without involving local community and that’s why they are demanding enjoying the fruitful products of their forest.
Talking with the leaders on how local community is benefiting from the forest resource available in their area WEO – Mr. Daniel Mutell said that it is true that there is no any benefit that local community is obtaining from the forest except 10,000/=Tsh for each track from the forest carrying tree logs while the log taken are huge and many compared to the 10,000Tshs left. Also they claim that there is 5% that is been given to the District council but it never reach to the village for village development activities.
Most of the villagers consulted were very angry and dishonest with the government due to the punishments and fines they have been forced to pay when found in the forest having or without having any forest product hence claiming there is no any benefit they are getting from the forest resource even their infrastructures are very poor, no single citizen is having tap water while a number of water pipes are connected from their area to town leaving the local community using water from the streams flowing from the forest.
There for it is a big shame seen this community surrounding this huge forest resource but suffer in punishments, using stream water, poor rough roads and generally majority suffering in poverty regardless the resource available. COMECA is advocating to the area on using CBFM and JFM so as to reduce the conflict by granting some sort of ownership to the community so that they can benefit even by getting household needs such as firewood and grasses.
Eva Michael –YET 2010