Putting forests first: Tanzania brings trees and green learning into the classroom

©Joseph Nyanchini

12 September 2019, Dodoma – FAO and Tanzania launched a new initiative this week to teach children about the importance of managing forests sustainably in order to safeguard natural resources.

Funded by Germany, the three-year-project will see selected local primary schools introduce forest education modules for children aged 9-12 on the vital relationships between forests and biodiversity, health, wellbeing, and the climate.

Education modules will be developed with local education and forestry experts based on interactive learning approaches, with lesson plans including outdoor activities to green spaces to teach children to value nature.

“Tanzania’s forests provide food and fuel for many, and also have a key role to play in combating climate change,” said Fred Kafeero, FAO Representative in Tanzania.

“When almost half of the population of Tanzania is under the age of 15, it is critical to give children an understanding of how we can benefit from forests in a sustainable way while protecting the trees and woodland of the future.”

Tanzania losing 1 percent of forests each year

Forests and woodlands cover 52 percent of Tanzania and are vital to the lives of rural populations, while over 90 percent of urban and semi-urban households rely on charcoal for energy.

However, the overexploitation of forests and clearing land for agriculture have contributed to high deforestation and forest degradation, with the country losing around 1 percent of its forest cover each year.

The new children’s forest education project will add to important regulations, policies, acts and guidelines that Tanzania has been putting in place with the aim of ensuring the conservation and the sustainable use of its forests.

"The forest sector in Tanzania continues to play a significant role in human, cultural and economic development," said Ezekiel Mwakalukwa, the Director of the Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania. 

"This project can offset management and conservation challenges to help safeguard our deteriorating environment."

Project helps address global ‘disconnect’ from nature

At an inception workshop in Dar es Salaam this week, forestry and education experts will work with local teachers, national education authorities and other key stakeholders to ensure the local relevancy of the modules.

Tanzania is the first country to partner with FAO to roll out the $1 million project, which will also be launched in the Philippines in a second phase in 2020.

At the end of the project, a publication will be developed to guide other countries interested in adapting the forest education modules for use in their own schools, drawing on lessons learned in both Tanzania and the Philippines.

"Education about forests around the world is often inadequate and does not address emerging issues, while rapid urbanization means populations are increasingly disconnected from nature and lack an understanding of forests and their many benefits," said FAO Forestry Officer Maria De Cristofaro.

"At the same time, fewer young people are studying forestry at university or college, and even fewer primary and secondary schools include forest education in their curricula. Projects like this one can have a real impact on a global scale and will hopefully inspire young people to become foresters who can deal with the complex challenges facing the sector."

Funded by Germany, with over $1 million, and with the assistance of the German association for the protection of forests, Schutzgemeinschaft Deutscher Wald (SDW), the project will develop forest education modules based on an interactive, experiential, forest-based learning approach, and will then make these materials available for further adaptation and use around the world via a dedicated website. The materials and lessons learned will be also disseminated during key forestry events. 

last updated:  Thursday, September 12, 2019