The mountains of Uluguru pile up amidst the plains of Tanzania, rising up to more than 2.000 meters. Their peaks are covered by fluffy clouds, the cliffy hillsides are steep. The panorama arising in front of my eyes here in Morogoro reminds me of landscapes in Switzerland or Austria. But something interrupts the picturesque view of the mountains: Where once green forests covered the mountains, now there is a brown rag rug out of torched earth and withered fields. Only a few high trees can be seen, in the remaining green areas bushes and banana-trees are growing. “In the past there were trees everywhere”, explains Lopa, a project manager of CARE. “But the villagers cut down the forests to gain more land for farming.”
Potholes and a packed land-cruiser
Today we are heading to Kibungo, a village way up in the Uluguru-mountains. Although Kibungo is only 60 kilometres from Morogoro, it takes us more than three hours to get there. The street – covered with potholes - is not really worth its name. Our car moves very slowly up the red dusty road. Rice- and cornfields are passing by, banana-plantations and coconut palms. Since it is market day we come about salesmen with piles of bananas and oranges in front of them. To get from the market to Kibungo, the villagers have to walk all the way down the hill. After shopping, they have to walk the same distance upwards again – this time carrying all the shopping they have done. We pick up some of the pedestrians until our jeep almost bursts. While we are swinging up the hill the driver and I joke about starting a transportation business here. It might be a small joke shared between us, but it is a harsh reality for the villagers every day. Without streets and a proper transport-system it is impossible for them to sell their products.
Deforestation and landslides are twins
Basically they are living from what they harvest on their fields. When the soil is losing its fertility due to the extensive cultivation, new farm land has to be worked in order to make a living. That’s why the villagers start cutting down trees.
“Another problem is that the farmers cultivate their land in a way which is very harmful to the environment”, Lopa explains. “Nowadays we have new techniques which go easy on the fields and the soil, like using natural fertilisers or building terraces.”
It is a vicious circle: The more forest is being cleared the more the soil is sliding down the hill. Without the trees stabilising the ground with its roots, it slides down and destroys fields, streets and alleys. To change this and to avoid further destruction Lopa and his team from Morogoro explain to the farmers the best way to cultivate their land without harming the environment. They show them the new techniques and how to best use them.
Solution: getting paid for environmental protection
But this is only a part of the project CARE is implementing in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A river called Ruvu, which has its source in the mountains of Uluguru, is one of the main water suppliers of Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Because of the soil erosion the water gets more and more polluted. In order to drink it, it is therefore very recommended to utilize filter systems. But these filters are very expensive, and that is why CARE and WWF are working on a new idea: The farmers cultivate their land in a more gentle way in order to keep the water clean. For their efforts they are being paid by big companies which gain profits from the clean water. “By this means the people living in the Uluguru-mountains have simple economic incentive to preserve the forests”, Lopa explains. He has developed a business plan for CARE, which tries to pitch this kind of payment system to the relevant companies. Right now the project has just started. First of all the farmers have to keep the water clean, then they can ask to be paid for their contribution. “I am very optimistic”, Lopa says. “Some firms already expressed their interest. Coca Cola for example wants to invest in the idea. It is desperately necessary to change something. Otherwise the Uluguru-mountains will soon be known for their red earth and not for their green forests.”
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