Lesson Learned

Simon Milledge, deputy director, TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa

With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), TRAFFIC implemented a project to prevent unsustainable timber trade from the coastal forests of southeast Tanzania and to increase knowledge of biological diversity in the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya region.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

Governance shortfalls pose the greatest threat to the effectiveness of technically based and logical management interventions to address unsustainable and illegal timber harvesting from the hotspot.

Describe how you learned this and whether/how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.

The combination of political commitment and provision of credible data on timber harvesting and trade produced a range of positive management responses from the government, development community, and private sector.

Many of these interventions were logically formulated from technical information. For example, with regard to economic impacts, advocacy efforts highlighted actual revenues amounting to a small fraction of the potential government income, with up to 96 percent of the potential revenue lost. This was much lower than the national average, but higher than a few years previously.

As a result, various spatial and temporal harvest and trade restrictions were implemented, even as far as a total national indigenous hardwood harvest ban. Enforcement efforts complemented these regulatory changes, including the confiscation of large quantities of logs from ports and village landing sites.

As another example, revised procedures to allow a greater role for village communities in district harvest licensing procedures followed the provision of information demonstrating inequity and lost benefits.

While many of these management interventions had a fairly immediate positive impact, some had only a limited influence, and others have subsequently been undermined due to governance shortfalls from limited capacity, insufficient institutional mechanisms, and corruption.

Analogous to running up a sand bank (two steps forward, one step back!) governance shortfalls remain a major limiting factor to the success of many forestry conservation activities.

It is therefore important for partners in conservation to either include activities that help increase levels of transparency and good governance, or alternatively forge linkages with institutions involved in fiscal integrity, good governance, and civil rights.

- September 2006