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Support from BP Tanzania
Mr. Charles Mmbaga, Public Relations Officer of British Petroleum (BP) Tanzania, has written several newspaper articles about the plight of the mpingo and the efforts of the ABCP. Last year he traveled to Moshi with a cameraman and photographed Elizabeth Chuwa at the Moshi Mpingo Plot for the BP Tanzania 2000 calendar. BP Tanzania has generously offered to provide a fuel allowance of US$625 for Sebastians use in carrying out the Lindbergh Grant projects in the upcoming year. ABCP is very grateful to Mr. Mmbaga and BP Tanzania for this vote of confidence in our work and we look forward to future cooperation in conservation work in Tanzania.
Cambridge Mpingo Project
Our 1999 newsletter reported on the work of Steve Ball, team leader of the Cambridge Mpingo Project '96. Steve has led several expeditions to Tanzania to study the ecology and distribution of mpingo and threats to its survival.
In the summer of 1998 a team of 13 members, from both Britain and Tanzania, conducted research in the Lindi Region, measuring and counting trees within and near the Mitarure Forest, the largest reserve in Kilwa District. The team also met with local villagers and their leaders to question them about their use of mpingo and to broaden their knowledge base about the tree. At the conclusion of the fieldwork phase a few members toured the Region, visiting various Forestry Offices and several sawmills. An expedition in 1999 and one scheduled for the summer of 2000 will add to the body of knowledge already collected.
The Full Report of Tanzanian Mpingo '98 (TM98) offers considerable insight into causes of its declining numbers and suggestions about steps towards its conservation. Its two major threats are:
1) Increased population pressures are reducing the range of mpingo because of land clearing and seasonal burning. In the isolated Lindi region where he worked, mpingo was still plentiful but the government of Tanzania is building a bridge across the Rufiji River and dredging harbors on the coast. This will open the area to settlement and commercial use, undoubtedly threatening existing stands of mpingo.
2) Commercial exploitation by sawmills is particularly problematic because of the huge volume of waste they produce. Better milling practices, common sense measures like end-sealing of logs and proper storage, and the sharing with native wood-carvers of their cut-offs and rejects would significantly reduce the number of trees being harvested.
Steve thinks that mpingo is ideally suited for a sustainable harvesting regime: "Mpingo's cultural significance, as Tanzania's national tree and its importance to musicians make it an interesting species for conservation intervention It has the potential to become a flagship species for Tanzania by providing an income which allows the whole miombo ecosystem to be conserved through traditional management practices."
Of crucial importance will be an education program to teach residents the value of its commercial woodland species and to emphasize the dangers of burning, particularly late in the dry season. Also important will be an inventory in order to determine an estimate of remaining stands. This would indicate whether the current rate of harvesting is sustainable.
ABCP thanks Steve Ball for supplying both Sebastian and the US office with a copy of Tanzanian Mpingo '98. The report can be ordered online at the Cambridge Mpingo Project (renamed Mpingo Conservation Project in March 2004) website at www.mpingoconservation.org
GPS and GIS
Sebastian has conducted numerous botanical surveys over the years and used Global Positioning System (GPS) transponders during his work with the National Park system at Ngorongoro Crater. The ABCP hopes to acquire a new GPS receiver for Sebastian to plot mpingo growth patterns in Tanzania. In time we hope to create maps using Global Information System (GIS) software documenting this valuable research. This is a long-term project for Sebastian and the ABCP in which we hope to contribute to
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James E. Harris, © 2000.
Last revised 21 Apr 2008.