Adventure in Tanzania: Fieldwork amid the pandemic

Mambo (what’s up in Swahili)! I’m Kendisha, a doctoral student from Indonesia under the WoodCluster project. This year, amid the pandemic, I was finally able to undertake fieldwork in Tanzania, from March 8th (which is women’s day) until June 5th (environment day). My topic is about the potential role of forest farmers’ organizations in linking smallholder tree growers to a more structured market in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia and Tanzania). During the fieldwork, I basically replicated the methods I conducted in my first fieldwork in southern Ethiopia in 2019, with – naturally – adjustments to the local conditions.

Conducting a focus group discussion with smallholder tree growers (©S. Chidodo)
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Bike Excursion Day 5 – Analyzing the Landscape while cycling to Polish Forests

On the fifth and last day of our Bike Excursion, two activities were carried out: An unprecedented “Landscape Transect Analysis Through Observation” took place in the morning and, in the afternoon, we visited different stands of the State forestry in Poland.

Pine Forests dominated on the last day of the excursion

On the 2nd of July 2021, we were allowed to wake up later. At seven o’clock in the morning, we gathered in the Cafeteria to have our last breakfast. According to plan we had to leave the Brüderhaus Martinshof Rothenburg Diakoniewerk at eight, but unsurprisingly we left to our destination with 20 min delay. At 08:20h we started the first bike journey to the second point of the excursion. Before leaving, the supervisors divided the students into 4 groups and introduced them to the landscape transect analysis exercise. The groups consisted of approximately 4-5 students. Group 1 had the task to observe infrastructure construction within the landscape. The second group was responsible for assessing the land use/economy across the landscape. Group 3 focussed on assessing the biodiversity and Group 4 governance aspects. While riding, the student groups discussed aspects related to the transect analysis exercise. After a 20km ride along the German-Polish border, we reached Przewóz (Poland), where we were expected for lunch. Before having lunch, however, each group presented its insights regarding each aspect analysed. This exercise fulfilled its objective of training our eyes and minds to critically analyze natural and human-made elements of a landscape.

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Bike Excursion Day 4 – Another day of cycling packed with more learning about forests, biodiversity and water fun!

The fourth day of our excursion began with a breakfast full of delicious dishes at 7 AM, followed by an instructive presentation of the forestry authority of Görlitz County. To begin with, they presented basic information about the county, which has 2106 km² and 261 000 residents (124 persons/km²). Afterwards, they gave us an overview of the tasks of the Forestry Authority, which consists mainly in monitoring and conserving the forest, and preventing forest fires. An interesting fact is that the county is covered by 37% of forests, in comparison with 28% in Saxony and 31% in Germany. After this introduction to the tasks of a public forest administration, we saddled up to the public forest and biked for 11 km.

The local foresters and their dog joined us on the bikes
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Bike Excursion Day 3 – A sawmill, a castle and a island of culture

The third day of the bike excursion started at 6.30. We woke up and had our breakfast buffet ready. The breakfast team did well with their jobs, we had a fresh breakfast and had several food options for filling up our lunchbox. We were all excited about our 50km journey coming up, although it was slightly raining in the morning.

Cycling through agricultural fields …
… and pine plantations

Our first destination of the day was the Schweighofer sawmill plant in Kodersdorf, Saxony, which belongs to the HS Timber Group. HS Timber Group is a strong company with different production sites in Germany and Romania. The mill in Kodersdorf was added into the group in 2015, employs more than 400 people. We witnessed the active vibes of this working place, where around 150 trucks of timber come in every day. Their products are diverse, including veneer, blockboard, sawn and glued timber, concrete formwork panels, pellets, briquettes. They are exported to around 70 countries across the world. The main timber inputs of this mill are spruce and pine, which were debarking and processing by high technology machines. Labor safety and labor skills are under high priority concerns of the sawmill. However, the problem of bark beetles to spruce has affected directly the timber price, creating the risks of producing spruce timber products in the future.

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Bike Excursion Day 2 – 3 countries, 2 forest organizations and 1 refreshing last stop in a hot summer day

After a really nice breakfast, we started what would be one of the most demanding cycling days of our journey! We hopped on a train towards Zittau with our bikes, we took our notebooks and swimsuits with us, and we were ready to explore!

Our first stop was at the town hall of Zittau. With Frau Bültemeier, we learned that Zittau has the largest Municipal Forest in Germany. Forests in Germany belong to the state or private owners in its majority, which made the Zittau case a little surprising. We were taught that the economy of the city relied on forest since its recognition as a municipality in 1255. Nowadays, Zittau has focused on Tourism, thus forests remain a key economical factor. Apart from that, we learned about the beautiful Italian architecture of the city hall and the mayors represented by the statues placed below the guardians of the strength, unity, religious protection and hard work of the city’s population. Looking at these pieces of art was somehow a moment in which we could connect politics, beliefs and environmental history in a broad, yet integrated way…

Zittau town hall
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Bike Excursion Day 1 – Senckenberg Museum: A place to store knowledge and history of biodiversity for more than 6 centuries

In the end of June 2021, we entered the summer season and it’s a perfect time for us to understand more about forest management and organization system in Germany through visiting various forest enterprises and discuss about the management of the forest and how it can be beneficial not only from the economic perspective but also from the ecological and social point of views. This bike excursion is designed for Master students of Tropical Forestry of TU Dresden with the aim is to introduce the type of forest enterprise in Germany as well as improving students’ horizon and knowledge on managing forest. The program was followed by 19 master students and companied by Prof. Lukas Giessen, Dr. Eckhard Auch, Franziska Leonhardt, and Marcel Starfinger. As most students come from tropical countries, we were very excited to ride a bike for five days and enjoy the nature Neiße river (border of Germany and Poland). The bike excursion was started from Görlitz which is a part of Upper Lusatia and a town in the eastern part of Saxony State, Germany.

Exploring Forestry at the German Polish border region by bike
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