National tree of Tanzania makes sustainable music

The UK woodwind instrument maker, Hanson, has launched a clarinet made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – certified wood, meaning that the trees are grown and the forests managed sustainably according to an international standard. Hanson is using wood from the East African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) tree otherwise known as Mpingo, in Tanzania.

“We are proud to become the world’s first FSC-certified maker of woodwind instruments. We buy our wood responsibly to help safeguard the hugely valuable natural resources of the tropical forests that provide the material needed to make clarinets,” said Hanson co-founder, Alastair Hanson at the launch of the FSC-certified clarinet today in Manchester.

Alastair Hanson, co-founder of Hanson Clarinets, with woodwind students from the Royal Northern College of Music

FSC is an international non-profit organisation established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests-whereby local people earn income from the wood.

Mpingo wood has often used in making instruments – but now it is harvested responsibly in some forests in Tanzania. The woodwind industry is one of the primary drivers of illegal logging, with as much as 96% of wood exported from countries such as Tanzania being harvested illegally.

This new FSC certification, will mean that local communities will reap a much higher profit for logging on their land. For example, the first FSC-mpingo harvest in the village of Kikole last year meant that the community earned roughly 400 times their previous incomes.

African blackwood is a slow growing tree that is highly prized for making clarinets, oboes and bagpipes. It has long been over-harvested across the continent to obtain its dark, lustrous heartwood.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been involved in mpingo conservation since 2004, following a grant from the Conservation Leadership Programme – a partnership of four global environmental organisations – which launched the Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative to protect southeastern Tanzania’s coastal forests that were under threat from logging.

Sound & Fair aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a chain of custody linking forest-dependent people in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians throughout the world.

FSC has National Initiatives in more than 50 countries around the world. The FSC also has regional offices while the FSC International Center is located in Bonn, Germany.