The report says that the forestry sector contributes to three per cent of Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP).
But it adds that the country had deforestation rate of 372,816 hectares a year between 1995 and 2010 through agricultural activities such as shifting cultivation, wildfires, illegal logging, livestock grazing and unsustainable charcoal production.
“Implementation of REDD+, which include the role of conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, can be an important vehicle for Tanzania.”
Achim Steiner, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The report is on a study by researchers from South Africa-based Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa.
The study assessed the economic costs and benefits of deforestation in Tanzania, taking into account how deforestation could affect the country’s GDP and general economy for the period 2013-2033.
Using data from sources such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, National Forestry Resources Monitoring and Assessment of Tanzania, researchers estimate that deforestation could cost the national economy about 5.6 trillion Tanzanian shillings (US$3.5 billion) between 2013 and 2033.
But according to the report, rural dwellers could earn increased incomes though investment in the forestry sector.
The report — Forest ecosystems in the transition to a green economy and the role of REDD+ in the United Republic of Tanzania — adds that there is a need for Tanzania to invest in sustainable use and conservation of its forest assets through a REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) strategy that lets farmers earn credits by saving endangered forests.
“Implementation of REDD+, which includes the role of conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, can be an important vehicle for Tanzania and other nations,” says Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and executive director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in a statement released on 9 July.
He adds: “Forests provide a host of ecosystem services to national economies that are not captured in national development planning, and this latest assessment, from Tanzania, provides further evidence of the economic damage that can be wrought when we do not appreciate the full value of nature.”
Ivo Mulder, a co-editor of the report and REDD+ green economy advisor for UNEP, says firewood and charcoal making are major factors of deforestation and urges the government of Tanzania to adopt renewable energy policies.
Mulder adds that subsidising kerosene, which is widely used by most households in urban and rural areas, could also reduce overreliance on firewood and charcoal. Felician Kilahama, a former director of forestry and beekeeping in Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, points out that deforestation is associated with climate change, which may result in frequent floods and droughts.
Kilahama, who is also the chairman of the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative in Tanzania, advocates for friendly government policies to encourage use of alternative energy sources, such as that generated from the wind and the sun.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.