Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in Tanzania since the early 1990s when we began a project to save the Pemba flying fox from extinction. At that time, fewer than 5,000 were estimated to remain, and they were under severe threat from hunting and habitat loss. Working closely with communities and the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry, FFI monitored bat roosting and helped to raise awareness about the threats to this culturally important species.
As a result, communities took the bats’ protection into their own hands, establishing local by-laws to protect roost sites from disturbance and prevent hunting. FFI continued to support these efforts for over a decade, while the bat population gradually recovered. Today, the Pemba flying fox population exceeds 28,000 – a stunning conservation success.
Other work in recent years has included supporting the sustainable management of the African blackwood (mpingo) – a highly valuable timber species used to make musical instruments. Through sustainable certification, this project not only improved forest management but also enabled communities to benefit from sustainable management, as they were able to charge a premium for responsibly sourced timber.
Today, our work in Tanzania is focused back on Pemba Island – this time concentrating on improving the sustainability of fisheries within the island’s highly biodiverse waters. We have been working with local fishers’ committees to raise awareness about the importance of marine biodiversity and have provided training and support for these local institutions. As a result, people are now taking a more active role in managing their local waters, carrying out voluntary patrols of their fishing grounds and informing the authorities of illegal fishing activity observed – another win-win for people and biodiversity.
FFI also works with our local partner to conserve part of the Greater Mahale forest ecosystem in north-west Tanzania, where fewer than 2,500 of Tanzania’s remaining chimpanzees reside. Snaring, forest fires, uncontrolled grazing, logging and – in particular – encroachment by farming and settlements threaten the viability of the chimpanzee population as well as the forest’s overall biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides for local people.
The villages Mgambazi and Lugonesi, which own part of the forest, have guarded it from encroachment and habitat loss since 2012 when they mandated local community-based organisation, the Tongwe Trust, to help them manage and secure their village land and natural resources. Together with Tongwe Trust, we have succeeded in establishing forest patrols to address threats, as well as helping to secure local land rights.