Tan­za­nian pas­toral­ists, hit by drought, trade fire­wood for food

African Independent - - ENVIRONMENT - KAGONDU NJAGI

IT IS only 6am but Veron­ica Le­mu­ngat is al­ready set­ting up shop at the Na­manga open-air mar­ket on the Tan­za­nia-Kenya bor­der. She brushes twigs off her striped red and blue dress, and places a bun­dle of fire­wood at her feet.

Her back still aches from car­ry­ing the 10kg load on the twohour jour­ney from Longindo, her vil­lage in north­ern Tan­za­nia.

“I col­lect the fire­wood from the bush in the evening and go to the mar­ket in the morn­ing be­cause it is not too hot,” she ex­plained.

Pro­longed pe­ri­ods of drought in the re­gion have de­pleted graz­ing land, forc­ing pas­toral­ists to travel with their herds for weeks at a time – some­times months – to look for greener pas­tures.

With their men gone, pas­toral­ist women like Le­mu­ngat must find new ways to boost their in­come – by col­lect­ing and sell­ing fire­wood, for ex­am­ple.

“Drought dries up range­land veg­e­ta­tion, mak­ing fire­wood read­ily avail­able in the bush,” Le­mu­ngat.

For a 10kg bun­dle of fire­wood, the mother of three makes 4 310 Tan­za­nian shillings (about $2) each day.

“With this money, I buy maize flour and veg­eta­bles to cook for my fam­ily,” she said. “It’s bet­ter than stay­ing at home like I used to, with only sour milk to sur­vive on dur­ing drought.”

Although Tan­za­nian law doesn’t ex­pressly for­bid col­lect­ing fire­wood in the wild, the coun­try’s Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Live­stock and Fish­eries, Charles John Tizeba, told a con­fer­ence in Nairobi in Septem­ber the prac­tice could lead to de­for­esta­tion and en­croach­ment of pro­tected ar­eas.

Har­vest­ing range­land veg­e­ta­tion is il­le­gal in Kenya, how­ever, which drives Kenyan traders to cross the bor­der at Na­manga, look­ing for fire­wood.

“I rely on fire­wood to make char­coal,” said Thomas Mwanzia, a Kenyan char­coal trader who buys wood at the Na­manga mar­ket.

An­other loom­ing threat for Le­mu­ngat and other traders came from Tan­za­nian youth, who have also iden­ti­fied fire­wood as a po­ten­tial in­come source and trade it rid­ing mo­tor­bikes.

“A mo­tor­bike can carry five times what I can carry on my back and reach the mar­ket faster,” said Le­mu­ngat. – Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion

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