In 2008, when Benjamin Mengi invaded Silverdale and Mbono Farms, he broke into the home of investors Stewart Middleton and Sarah Hermitage ransacked their house and stole their property like a savage.
He arrived on the farm with the Moshi police who he instructed (and they obeyed) to arrest the investors staff who remained on the farm and chased the care taker of the investor's house from the property.
The small items from the house he distributed to the police and his cattle staff who were unlawfully on the farms and took the large items of furniture for himself, loaded them onto a truck and took them from the property.
Mengi then proceeded to cut down just about every single tree on Silverdale and Mbono Farms.
He was protected by the police in this venture who refused to charge Mengi with burglary, theft and criminal trespass and directly sanctioned Mengi’s criminal conduct. The Regional Police Commander told the British government, that Mengi “was looking after the property for the investors until they returned to Tanzania”.
Mengi’s criminal conduct was sanctioned by Mr. Kikwete’s State Attorneys in Moshi who have given Mengi permission to remove the timber from the farms.
Action needed to curb unbridled tree felling
In yesterday’s edition of this paper we published a story on tree felling in Udzungwa Forest Reserve in Morogoro and Iringa regions, where illegal loggers are decimating the very area where the Kilombero offshoot of the Rufiji River begins.
According to the story, the loggers have buried themselves deep inside the vast forest reserve, operating from a site where it is reportedly difficult for leaders in the area to locate them, leaving them free to carry out their destructive activities.
Statistics however show that this is not a single and isolated criminal venture. Hardly two months ago, in the same region this paper had reported cases of loggers cutting down trees at Mamuya Forest Reserve in Kilosa District.
Concerned villagers and environmentalists told this paper that some of the loggers have been making huge amounts of money from selling logs, which are then exported.
It appears that Morogoro region is a recent victim of such wanton destructiveness. Environment reports show that in the south eastern part of the country particularly in Lindi and Mtwara regions where harvesting of logs for export has been renewed, a number of exotic tree species are almost depleted.
One such threatened species are ebony (mpingo) trees, whose harvesting rate is worrying. At least 20,000 of the disappearing trees are cut down every year.
In the northern regions of Tanga, Arusha, Manyara and Kilimanjaro, similar complaints and outcries of unbridled tree felling have been on and off, leading district authorities in Kilindi, Tanga Region, to at one time impose a ban on commercial tree harvesting.
Already large portions of land in the Lake regions of Mwanza, Mara, Shinyanga and Kagera have been turned into semi-deserts because of rampant cutting down of trees. That is not all. The south and western regions of Kigoma, Rukwa, Mbeya, Tabora, Iringa and Ruvuma are being targeted by the environmental predators.
When all is said, the reality on the ground is that the country loses between 130,000 and 500,000 hectares of forests every year, through tree felling, mostly of illegal nature, an activity which threatens to turn a growing portion of the country into a desert.
The rate of tree loss should make us all worried, considering that Tanzania’s forest reserves are just about 40 million hectares.
This trend if left unchecked will decimate not only the trees, but is sure to undermine our own life, which greatly depends on the environment.
Statistics show that despite the prevailing energy crisis, which has forced an increasing number of people to resort to use of fuelwood, the main reason for increased logging rate is a rise in demand by Far East Asia for furniture production.
We all remember well the White Paper on the conservation of the environment, adopted some years back to tackle the ills in this area, such as destruction of water sources and rampant forest fires.
The government needs to revisit its implementation of the resolutions with a view to taking more bold decisions to avert a looming desert.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN