East Africa Updates

Wednesday, 13 December 2017
MCDI launches first community-owned sawmill in Africa


Forest Stewardship Council certified Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI) plans to expand sawn timber production to two more villages in Tanzania 2018.

On 13 October 2017, MCDI launched the first community-owned sawmill in Africa. Started in 2009 with a certification of only two villages in south-east Tanzania (Kilwa District) the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative and its partners have grown to see 12 more villages being certified by FSC for employing the highest international standards to manage their natural forests resulting in more than 185,000 hectares of natural forests being FSC certified.

MCDI were one of the organisations to be awarded a multi-year grants in 2013 as part of the FSC smallholder fund. The fund was meant to help smallholders address compliance costs, invest in new machinery or market their products amongst other things.

Speaking at the launch Mr Makala Jasper, CEO-MCDI said “This launch and handover of the sawmill to this village represents a massive achievement for community-based forest management in Africa. Until recently, the ability of these villages to generate sufficient income to manage their forests has been hampered due to insufficient start-up capital finance, equipment, skills and market access. These barriers have prevented communities from adding value to their local hardwoods through further processing, there are very few buyers for logs, but huge demand for sawn timber. This is where the money is."

He added that MCDI plans to expand sawn timber production to at least two more villages, building upon lessons learned during our initial pilot in Ngea village. They will also be supporting a step-wise expansion in more communities so that more people can benefit from conserving their forests through sawn timber production.

“If you are serious about managing your forests in a responsible way to ensure that they remain healthy and standing for future generations, then FSC's guidelines, principles and criteria are invaluable tools that can help you to get to get there. Becoming a registered certificate holder will further ensure that you are held accountable to this promise. I urge all other smallholders to come together and apply for a group certificate is a useful way to distribute the financial responsibility that comes with certification”.

He added that MCDI would like to see a more collaborative, problem-solving approach from different actors to ensure the future of Tanzania's forests and to see buyers of timber actively choosing to purchase timber from legal and sustainable sources, which will help to stamp out competition from illegal logging, which has reduced in recent years but is still a challenge.

Chris Burchmore Regional Director for FSC Africa, said: “This is an important milestone for MCDI and falls in line with FSC Africa’s focus on smallholders as an important stakeholder in the forestry value chain market. It is critical for consumers at a community level to also know that by purchasing wood products from FSC-certified community forests like MCDI they are contributing to sustainable forests and economically viable communities”

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