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1. Opening ceremony speech

by A. R. Mwaheleje, ministry of Tourism, Natural Resources and Environment, Tanzania.


Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Guests,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Please allow me in opening this Consultative meeting to express to you in my name and on behalf of the Government and people of Tanzania our feelings of pride and honour for the choice of Tanzania as host to the first Regional Expert Consultative Meeting on non-wood forest product.

On this occassion I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Commonwealth Secretariat for calling upon us to host this important event.

Mr. Chairman,

I would also like to welcome our honoured guests. I wish all a pleasant stay among us and success in your work.

Our country has a lot to offer and as you may well know, Tanzania is endowed with some of the most beautiful national parks in the world to be found not far from Arusha. It is my hope that you will manage to snatch a few moments of your busy schedule and utilize this chance to visit such places as the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Lake Manyara National Parks just to mention a few.

Mr. Chairman,

I am informed that in this Consultative Meeting of Experts on non-wood forest products, you are going to deliberate on the current status of production and utilisation of non wood forest products in your respective countries through information and statistical data gathering; review the need for improvement in the areas of collecting, processing and marketing of these products and also examine the issue of economic dimensions of non-wood forest products as well as proposing development interventions for national level action through regional project profiles.

Mr. Chairman,

Your gathering here today has come at the most opportune time when the conservation and sustainable use of forests for environmental and biodiversity protection are the key issues in the wake of the Agenda 21 deliberated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last year.

As we are all aware, forests supply not only timber, poles and fuelwood, but also an extensive range of goods for food, fodder, medicine and industry, collectively termed as non-wood forest products.

Non-wood forest products comprising of vegetal, faunal and forestry services have been important among our rural population living in and around the forest areas, who have depended to great extent on a large variety of forest products for their subsistence. The harvesting, processing and trade of these products constitute basic activities providing the goods and cash required for the welfare of millions of rural people, including improved food security and better nutrition increased income and job opportunities as well as increased market opportunities for new products.

Mr. Chairman,

While we recognise the potential and advantages of the Non-wood products, however, deforestation and degradation of forests, due to unsustainable timber harvesting, wild bush fires, over grazing, shifting cultivation, increasing population among other reasons have aggravated the situation of rural people living in or near the forest and impaired the sustainable supply of these products. Consequent to this there has been reduction of income and employment opportunities in the rural areas.

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to ensure that the potential and supply of non wood forest products and other forest based products is maintained and contribute to the economic and social development of our people and nations, the issue of protecting our forests and woodlands against deforestation and degradation must be emphasised, as outlined in the Tropical Forest Action Plan, which was born out of the global concern over deforestation and degradation of forest resources in tropical countries and their far reaching implication at local, national and regional levels.

For the forests to play their potential role in every facet of our life, the issue of sustainable management of our forest is of paramount importance. In its broadest sense, forest management should deal with the administrative, economic, social, legal, technical and scientific aspects of conservation and use of forests within the frame work of technically sound and politically accepted overall land use plan.

Mr. Chairman,

This implies various degrees of human intervention, ranging from action aimed at safeguarding and maintaining the forest ecosystem and its functions to favouring given socially or economically valuable species or groups of species for improved production of goods and environmental services is taken. This would require, technically, the formulation of management plans, which will help to control and regulate harvesting of specified goods, combined with silvicultural and protective measures applied in varying intensity to sustain or increase the social, ecological and economic value of the forests in subsequent generation.

For the successful implementation of forest management plans, the people and the countries concerned must be convinced that the land under forest is at least equal or more valuable as forests than if converted into other land use. People living in or adjacent to forests must be closely involved in all stages of decision making and implementation; moreover social and economic benefits emanating from the forests and its sustainable use must be maintained and enhanced at local as well as at national level.

Mr. Chairman,

In addressing ourselves to non-wood forest products we are opening another dimension of the multiple use of forests. Non wood forest products such as, gum copal, gum arabic, wild rubber to mention a few, had been very important export products in Tanzania in the mid fifties and late sixties of this century. However, lack of marketing strategies, development of the products and proliferation of synthetic products as substitutes has contributed to the decline in importance of these products. The revival in looking into developing these products will once again reinstate the importance of these products and the potential of enhancing and improving the rural economies and social welfare of our people. Most important, since the production and marketing of these products is done by the rural people in and around the forests, this will further enhance the participation of people in forest development and management activities.

Mr. Chairman,

It is my conviction that your deliberation on this subject will enlighten and pave ways of developing these products to reach the desired levels of production and utilisation of our forests on sustainable basis and catching all advantages which will further justify the development, conservation and protection of our forests.

Mr. Chairman,

With these few words may I once again, welcome you to Tanzania and declare this meeting open.

Thank you.

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