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Overview - Tanzania

Tanzania will soon complete the country’s first ever comprehensive forest inventory.  The National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment project or NAFORMA marks the biggest effort yet by a developing nation to map all of its forest resources. 

One third of Tanzania is forest and it’s estimated that approximately 1% of that forest is lost annually to deforestation.  Now, the government, together with the FAO, and with the financial support of government of Finland, is mapping the entire country to assess its forest resources including the size of the carbon stock stored within its forests.  This information will feed into better policymaking to ensure Tanzania’s most valuable forests are either conserved or utilized in a sustainable way.  This would help mitigate climate change but would also help the country in other ways such as managing its water resources and sustaining biodiversity and rural livelihoods. 

REDD+ initiative

The project is one of 5 pilot projects around the world overseen by the FAO and funded by the government of Finland. The pilot projects were announced in 2009, in response to calls from the United Nations for developing nations to reduce their emissions through deforestation and degradation (REDD).  Tanzania’s soon to be completed inventory will help the country meet its requirements under REDD+.  

In Tanzania, the 16 NAFORMA field teams have spent the past two years travelling the length and breadth of the country, gathering information from 3,400 different sites.  The field data they have collected includes both biophysical data about the trees and landscape and socio-economic information gathered through interviews with local people.  

Soil carbon

The field teams are not only gathering information on the trees, they are also assessing soil and its carbon content.   Soil’s contribution to climate change is not yet fully understood but forest soils act as massive carbon stores.  When the plants in the soil are productive, the soil absorbs carbon.  Activities such as decomposition in the soil and deforestation release carbon from the soil, significantly increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The soil samples are being analyzed at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in the Tanzanian city of Morogoro.

The wealth of information being gathered by the NAFORMA project will help inform better policy making that supports both forest conservation and environmentally friendly utilization of land including sustainable farming methods.  It is hoped the project will serve as an example to other developing countries that sustainable forest management is more environmentally friendly and, in the long run, more profitable than the unsustainable alternative.

National Forest Assessment Documents

Final Reports

Report highlights

  • Forest area: NAFORMA field inventory has determined the area of forest and woodlands of Tanzania mainland to be 48.1 million ha. This is 42 % larger than earlier projections. NAFORMA is the first ever ground based national forest inventory in Tanzania mainland and the differences with earlier estimates shows that ground measurements are essential for accurate forest inventories. Basing on the 2012 census, the population of Tanzania mainland is 43.6 million therefore, the per capita area of forest and woodland is 1.1 ha.
  • Wood volume: The total wood volume of Tanzania mainland is 3.3 billion m3 , whereby 97% of the total volume is from trees of natural origin and only 3% is from planted trees. The average volume of wood is 37.9 m3 /ha across all land cover types, varying from 1 m3 /ha in open grasslands to 171 m3 /ha in humid montane forests. The standing volume of wood per capita is 74.4m3 . About half the total volume is found in protection forests and wildlife-protected areas and therefore legally inaccessible for harvesting.
  • Trees: NAFORMA estimates the number of trees in Tanzania mainland to be 77.2 billion. Useful tree species of large dimensions are becoming rare due to human impacts. The average number of trees per capita is 1,723, primarily of small dimensions and slow growth.
  • Socio-economic results: NAFORMA interviewed 3,483 households and 1,118 key informants primarily in forest adjacent communities, which tend to be poor and somewhat disadvantaged without easy access to services. Due to the small sample size, the socioeconomic (SE) results cannot be projected to national level, but can be taken as an indication of how forest adjacent communities use forests for their livelihoods. Many activities related to extraction and use of forest products may be underreported, especially those that are not legal.
  • Forest Products: Firewood is by far the most commonly used forest product and is reported to be used exclusively by 96% of the households. Most respondents reported that there are currently no affordable alternatives to woodfuel. A wide range of other forest products is used by the forest adjacent communities.

More info and details in the Final Report


Methodology and Approach

FAO Forestry Paper 168 - Soil carbon monitoring using surveys and modelling in the United Republic of Tanzania 



last updated:  Wednesday, December 6, 2017