To lay eyes on Tanzania’s coastal forests is to be moved by their beauty and vitality, and Lilian Santos, a ranger working for our partner Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), has spent months exploring this mosaic of forest fragments. In her letter to World Land Trust (WLT) supporters, Lilian talks about the conservation milestone you can deliver by donating to our new campaign – joining forces with local people to save the home of forest primates, elephants, lions and leopards.
I’ve always known I wanted to work in conservation. It started with wildlife documentaries when I was a child, and continued through secondary school and university. After finishing my bachelor’s degree I went straight into conservation with TFCG and here I am – part of the protection of the coastal forests of eastern Tanzania.
I wish people could see the landscape they can help us save through the village land forest reserves (VLFRs) here in Lindi District, because it’s so beautiful. Over the past few months of community engagement and field trips, we’ve explored the forests adjacent to the Rondo Nature Reserve and Nyerere National Park: the lower side of the plateau where we believe elephants normally visit from Mozambique during the rainy season, and the upper side with the incredible view of all the landscape. To stand up there and look out is amazing.
In this video, Lilian introduces the villages, communities and wildlife you can help support with our new appeal.
During our monitoring trips we’ve seen signs of so much wildlife – fresh traces of African Elephant and African Leopard, tracks showing that an African Buffalo had been on the same spot as us only minutes before. Walking through the forest not even two days past, we were measuring trees when we spotted a Chequered Elephant Shrew running away!
Setting up the new forest reserves will be crucial for all these species, and local communities will have a leading voice. With this project, they will be the ones deciding where the new reserves will be created, and we’ve been visiting villages of the area to start the conversation. During our talks, we tell them about the need to protect the other living beings of the forest from encroachment and other threats; we answer their questions about how setting land aside for conservation will benefit them.
These are people like the Mwera, the Makua and the Makonde – and this project will offer them alternative livelihoods so that forest protection benefits them too. For instance, access to credit is a struggle in this area and that’s why we’ve been establishing village savings and loan associations, a move that has already been well received by local people. The plan is now, with your support, to help them transition to more sustainable forms of farming – fostering techniques so that with a small plot of land, local people can produce huge yields.
The coastal forests of Tanzania are a place we must save – a place we can save. I think about the success our country has seen in other areas like the Ngorogoro Crater in the north: how conservation action there resulted in an environment where people and wildlife live in the same general area, and yet animals remain safe and communities enjoy a comfortable life. I think about our potential to work with children in Lindi and beyond: how through them we can nurture a new generation who will believe that conservation is not just important; it is also mutually beneficial.
Fighting to save habitats is hard work but I will never get tired because I am so optimistic of what we can achieve in Tanzania. To World Land Trust supporters, I say this: if you help us save these coastal forests, you’re already part of this beautiful place. Let’s make it happen!
Project officer at TFCG