When driving into the district of Mufundi, in the Southern Highlands, we saw vast tea plantations surrounded by robust clusters of trees populating the mountainous region; passing small towns, it became obvious that the main livelihood in this area was timber. Trucks carried loads of large wood planks, as people also sold piles laid out in front of shops. The landscape was nothing short of magnificent but as we drove deeper into the district, we began seeing the remains of trees carelessly scattered across fields like coriander leaves on a kitchen chopping board. In Iyegeya that evening, we witnessed at first smoke billowing from behind the surrounding mountains, followed by embers that soon became flames which looked uncontrolled in the distance. This constitutes a significant problem in the area, where the main livelihood is mismanaged and something we aim for our NRM project to address.
The afternoon of the first day with Alpha 3, in preparation for the next morning down at the project site, we cut large rolls of plastic tubing into seperate pieces sized about three inches each. These were to be filled with soil the next day, with a target of having 150,000 filled by the end of this cycle. Seedlings will be planted inside the soil to grow into pine trees which will be transplanted to farmers in the area. To achieve their target, it is important that Alpha 3 mobilise community members to help with the task, including the farmers who will benefit from the seedlings.
The project site was in a valley at the bottom of a very steep hill, a climb Alpha 3 volunteers made up to four times a day. As the site was around 30 minutes away from the nearest home stay, the team built their own toilet as well as a shower crafted from poles, a string and a watering can, keeping them fresh in the altitude heat. Surrounded by trees, sitting besides a stream, we worked on filling the tubes.
Deputy operations manager Ffion set a competition between the field base visitors and Alpha 3 volunteers of who could fill the most tubes. In three hours, Ffion filled 129 tubes while I managed 109, both amounts comparatively dwarfed by Alpha 3’s Mzigwa who filled an incredible 260.
The seedlings inside the tubes will germinate for weeks before they are transplanted to local farms. They will take up to 10 years to grow, which means this element of the work is geared much more towards the future of the area. In terms of immediate change, Raleigh project partner Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) support local farmers in sustainable projects such as fishing points and bee keeping. On top of this, Alpha 3 volunteers delivered lessons twice a week at the primary school in Iyegeya, conveying their roles in the village as well as highlighting the importance of conserving the natural environment.
We spoke with Adam, the TFCG representative in the area about the NRM project and also visited a finished NRM project in the nearby village of Ikaning’ombe; look out for updates on both in the next few days.
Words by Miguel. Images by Paul.