A recent training on Community Based Forest Management at Seela village of Singisi ward in the new Meru district has brought into attention that sometimes our environment could be well conserved if we could equip and train our local leaders with conservation skills.
Seela which makes up one of the two villages in Sing'isi ward, boarders Mount Meru Forest Reserve, and has experienced serious environmental degradation like rampant logging in Kimira Hill, and expanded cultivation to water catchment areas.
In a discussion with the training participants held at the village, Noel Mbise, the Village Environment Committee chairperson put it clear that what they would now need is the knowledge and skills of how they can develop plans and strategies to manage the forest in sustainable way.
But what seems to motivate these representatives who holds the responsibility to manage the state of the environment particularly the forest, is the practical skills to manage and to initiate programs that will enhance conservation of the forest but also make the community benefit as well.
The chairperson explained that although the by-laws exist, they have not been able to conserve environmental resources in the area, particularly forests and the catchment areas. This has been due to lack of alternative income generating activities but also the alternative energy sources. In Seela village some community members have embarked on cultivation on catchment areas and this has affected the flow of tributaries that were formally used for irrigation.
Situation is not so much different from most areas and environmental challenges are almost shared. It is not possible to tell someone who is starving to stop agriculture, as that is the only way one can and earn a living and carter for family needs. However staying aside and watch these unsustainable ways of living which makes our land nothing than deserts should not be overlooked. And this is why leaders in all these areas have to get a very well understanding of consequences ahead if things will keep on moving this way.
To my opinion the great challenge of these leaders, especially in the marginalized rural areas is to think the alternative ways of earning a living for their people that depending entirely on nature. There need to be leaders with the knowledge to think outside the box and design more sustainable approaches to run life without harming the environment. For example in most areas of Seela village, the community feels satisfied keeping the local breeds of goats who have very little benefits, in terms of milk and price. The leaders can campaign for adoption of exotic breeds which grows and mature faster and milk output per animal is above the indigenous breeds.
There are needed more local community leaders who can negotiate with different development stakeholders to identify their resources and keep them into use. For example since each household keeps cattle or goats and others do both, biogas can be introduced at cheaper and affordable costs if the communities are well aware of the benefits. As the site is so mountainous with uniques geographical features, then eco-tourism can well prosper but if other cultural attraction will be initiated. Community schools can gain benefit from support like new desks or regular renovation with the money collected from eco-tourism activities for example. When we ever get at this stage, its when people will see the value of conservation for sustainable development.
Written by Innocent Kisanga-YET 2011