Request for Alternative Energy to Preserve Udzungwa Mountains National Park

Morogoro. Residents of villages bordering the Udzungwa Mountains National Park have requested the government, in collaboration with stakeholders, to provide them with alternative cooking energy sources to tame the excessive use of firewood and charcoal, which contributes to deforestation.

The request came after conservation education provided to them funded by USAID’s Tuhifadhi -Maliasili program.

Salma Selemani, a resident of Kiberege village, said after being trained on conservation by experts from Reforest Africa, a non-governmental organization implementing the USAID-funded Nyerere Selous Udzungwa (NSU) corridor Restoration together with Environment and Forest Certification (EFC) and Associazione Mazingira Associazione Mazingira Organization, they have gained knowledge on the importance of preserving the nature.

But they can hardly practice what they have been taught because they depend on firewood and charcoal for their lives.

‚ÄúWe will continue to use firewood and charcoal even as we know that using them is detrimental to the environment and our lives. We have no alternative to them,‚ÄĚ she said.

She said though there is cooking gas available in the area, its price is a barrier to most of them.

‚ÄúIts price is so high to most of us, we cannt afford it,‚ÄĚ she lamented noting:

Udzungwa falls

“I personally wish no one would go to the forest to cut down trees for charcoal or firewood, but what will we use for cooking when there is no alternative affordable energy?”

Dibana Kawaga, a resident of Mang’ula B village, said they are tempted to enter the protected area to collect firewood because there is no other affordable cooking energy available to them apart from firewood and charcoal. She asked the government and other stakeholders, to provide them with affordable cooking gas so that they can reduce dependence on firewood and charcoal.

Suna Kolela from Sole Village said despite receiving environmental conservation education and being involved in conservation activities, the goal of protecting the Udzungwa Mountains National Park will not be achieved if villager continue to use firewood and charcoal.

On the other hand, Dalas Msumia, a resident of Mang’ula A village, asked the district leadership to provide then with affordable alternative cooking energy so as to reduce forest invasion.

The Chief Conservator of the Reserve, Theodora Aloyce, said they are looking for stakeholders who will volunteer to provide gas stoves to the villagers to combat the problem of forest invasion.

She stated that the residents’ request for alternative energy shows their understanding of the knowledge they received through the training.

She said they will continue to work with conservation stakeholders to educate the community on the importance of using clean cooking energy, such as gas and alternative charcoal, in an organized manner for long-term sustainability.

Peter Paul, the Community Relations Manager of one of the implementing organisations, said that through the project, they are training villagers surrounding the reserve on forest conservation.

He noted that they are also producing native trees in collaboration with villagers and planting them in the NSU Corridor to restore it to its former state for the benefit of the wildlife and the residents.

“For example, we are currently working with villagers to plant trees in the NSU as well as at Magombera Nature Forest Reserve (MNFR), which connects the Udzungwa Mountains NP and Nyerere National Park and the entire Selous ecosystem passing through Magombera NFR,” he said.

He stated that the goal of the two-year project, which ends in June 2025, is to plant 100,000 trees as well as training and involving more than 600 individuals in the restoration interventions.

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