A 75-year-old woman named Sharifa Amanzi, who lives in Mchakama village in Kilwa District, Lindi Region is inspiring other community members to engage in planting teak. Sharifa was motivated to plant teak trees in her farm field following on from the success of MCDI-supported tree planting and harvesting efforts. While teak trees take approximately 15 to 25 years to mature, she believes that she will harvest the trees despite her age.
Typically, local communities focus on planting four crops: maize, millet, rice, and sesame. Sesame is the main cash crop in the area, therefore planting teak will offer a long-term alternative and help to generate substantial income further down the line.
Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI), Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Kilwa District Council (KDC) have been working in this area to support communities in tropical forestry ventures since 2004. Their combined work has raised awareness of tree planting projects in Mchakama village, particularly through the establishment of the village tree nursery in 2015. This partnership goes a step further by showing local people how to reduce harvesting pressure on Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) through the planting of native forest hardwoods – such as teak – with fruits and other trees of commercial value. This creates additional incentives for rural people to support tree planting efforts by improving local nutrition, access to food, and by providing an additional source of income to supplement local economies.
Sharifa Amanzi is among the five interested villagers who own demonstration plots planted with teak trees in Mchakama village. Each demonstration plot comprises 500 tree seedlings, the success of which will hopefully attract more villagers to become involved in projects on teak planting in Mchakama and other Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) villages.
Her farm field was planted with teak trees in January 2020. She applied an agroforestry system because that way the benefits from land use can be maximised. Besides selling the timber produced, Sharifa Amanzi can also sell or use the agricultural products (such as those previously mentioned) but her farm looks healthier and attracts most visitors. By intercropping her other crops with teak, the trees can also help to provide shade for her agriculture which can lead to reduced crop mortality.
Due to Sharifa’s success story from her demonstration plot, more community members (especially young people) are asking MCDI to support planting teak seedlings on their farms as an alternative source of income rather than depending on trees grown on village lands (VLFRs). Generally, VLFRs provide community-wide benefits as the revenues from timber harvesting are funnelled into democratically chosen community development projects. By intercropping timber species such as teak in their farm fields, community members like Sharifa can generate individual level benefits too, creating long-lasting benefits for her and her family.