Communities Lead Sustainable Development in Vikonge, Tanzania


Just a short time ago, Vikonge community in Tanzania was facing complex challenges. The village was dealing with natural resource depletion and other environmental threats due to a lack of land-use plans,limited capacity, and an absence of modern technological tools to conduct regular forest patrols. Through the Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania (LCWT) program—funded by USAID—the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) was able to work with community members to better understand how to establish sustainable natural resource management, and Vikonge was given a new chance to thrive.

Athumani Kamsweke, a Vikonge Land Use Management (VLUM) Chairperson, is grateful for USAID and JGI support, and he explains, “Both community members and village government have been empowered with skills in good governance and natural resources management.” He added, “It has funded and facilitated village land-use plans in the village.” Now, the community members are using compost in their farms, and carefully managing their water sources, forest reserves, and other sustainable resources.

Below: Athumani Kamsweke shows certificates of customary rights and occupancy from the intervention of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania (LCWT), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

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The local government has issued local community members certificates for customary rights and occupancies for both settlements and farms, and Kamsweke stressed that the certificates would serve as collateral for loans from financial institutions to boost enterprises. He noted, “The land is more valuable now than before, and land conflicts among neighbors, farmers and pastoralists have significantly diminished.”

Before JGI’s support through LCWT, Kamsweke noted, “The community members had limited access to knowledge, and knew less about technology and capacity to manage the village natural resources.” He added, “Charcoal burning, bush clearing for farms, and unplanned settlements were common practices.”

Through partnership with this community – through JGI’s model of community-led conservation known as Tacare – these community members are empowered to manage their own lands. Partnership with JGI means working with and training in vital tools such as the application of advanced technological equipment, including smartphones and Esri’s Survey123 application to help forest monitors address threats by tracking and reporting incidents in forest reserves to the relevant authorities.

Ephraim Luhwago is a Tanganyika District Forest Officer who has embodied the protection of natural resources. He works with the Vikonge local government to effectively manage natural resources by conducting joint forest patrols and enforcing by-laws for individuals who practice illegal logging, engage in charcoal burning, and establish farms or settlements in forest reserves.

Efforts are also potentially underway for Vikonge government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Carbon Tanzania to start selling carbon credits to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions and help fight climate change. Upon its implementation, Luhwago said the government would improve its financial capacity to effectively manage natural forest resources, especially Mnimba Forest reserve. He further elaborated that the community will raise funds for development activities such as health centers, classroom construction, and health insurance.

According to Neema Mbuya, the LCWT field agent at Vikonge, compost application has also sustained the Mnimba Forest Reserve. She said that many farmers have deserted distant farms and are shifting cultivation in favor of agriculture zones according to the Vikonge land use plan. “Earlier on,” she said, “farmers encountered soil infertility challenges in their farms.” She added that compost application has cut down shifting cultivation cases.

The local government with partners USAID through JGI is on the front line to promote compost application in demonstration plots and community meetings. As a result, many farmers have started adopting sustainable farming practices, including compost application, to boost soil fertility. “Many farmers make their compost with readily available materials,” she stated. Some schools have also started making compost and planting trees. Ifinsi primary school has made six (6) compost heaps and planted a thousand (1,000) trees to recover forest loss, she exemplified.

With so much progress in Vikonge, we are excited to see how the community will continue to own the process of natural resource management into the future! Through frameworks like JGI’s community-led approach known as Tacare, people, wildlife, and ecosystems can live harmoniously – building a better future for all.

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