The Mpingo conservation project

Steve Ball

Working with local foresters, and using as a flagship East African Blackwood – one of the world’s most valuable timbers – we seek to develop sustainable forestry under the management of local communities, and thereby conserve large areas forest and woodlands in southern Tanzania. Mpingo is the Swahili name for blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon). The tree is used to make clarinets and oboes in the West, and locally is the medium of choice for skilled wood-carvers. Its high profile, both internationally and in-country, coupled with its high economic value make it an excellent flagship species. The coastal forests close to the Indian Ocean are one of the most important but least known biodiversity hotspots in the world. However a new bridge over the River Rufiji threatens the whole of Lindi Region with large-scale deforestation; a process already in evidence, and new immigration into the area. The BP award will pay for intensive support for two newly declared Village Forest Reserves in Kilwa District and fund the expansion of the scheme to two more villages with significant stocks of mpingo. The award will also support priority long-term research into the population dynamics of the species, a good understanding of which is vital to determine what level of harvesting is ecologically sustainable.

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