- Five environmentalist organisations today announced the launch of a portfolio of sixty-four conservation projects in the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania after the Dar-es-Salaam government had endorsed the projects. The projects aim to significantly improve the conservation of Tanzania's rich natural resources in two ecological zones that are seen as especially rich in biodiversity, but also especially threatened.
The launch was announced today by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and four East African environmental organisations. During the launch, the government of Tanzania's Forestry and Beekeeping Division signed an important Memorandum of Understanding with Conservation International, which administers CEPF.
Forestry and Beekeeping is a division of Tanzania's Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The government of Tanzania through that division is the owner of over 200 forest reserves in the so-called "Eastern Arc and Coastal forests", which is the name of a specially diverse ecological zone only found in Tanzania and Kenya.
The agreement outlines how the environmentalists' investment can contribute information and training to support the Forestry and Beekeeping Division's management of these reserves. "This agreement is an important step towards ensuring that the results of CEPF's investment are properly integrated into management decisions for Tanzania's forests," stated Nike Doggart from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
"Since 2003, CEPF has received over 300 applications from civil society organisations to support projects aiming to improve the conservation of the region’s rich biodiversity and natural resources. Today we are pleased to announce that 64 projects are now under way or have been completed with finance from CEPF. These projects are helping to conserve over 46 priority sites which are home to 311 threatened species and implemented through partnerships involving over 100 institutions," added John Watkin of CEPF.
The investment is focused on the Eastern Arc Mountains and the Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya. This region has at least 1,500 species of plants and 50 species of reptiles found in these forests and nowhere else on earth, as well as a number of globally threatened birds. This makes the zone one of the globe's most important to conserve, environmentalists hold.
According to calculations made by CEPF, these forests once covered over 23,000 square kilometres. "However, only an estimated 5,340 km2 remain," the group says. Clearance for agriculture, bush fires, charcoal production and timber harvesting were said to be the main threats to these forests.
In Tanzania, the environmental services generated by the Eastern Arc Mountain forests alone were estimated to be worth over US$ 175 million per year to the nation. "As such they are a vital resource for poverty reduction and economic growth," the environmentalist group holds.
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