Smallholder Forestry in Tanzania – My research about a local business

Beautiful landscape in Makete district

My name is Oliver Duncker, I’m a forest science student from Germany and had a wonderful time doing the data collection for my bachelor thesis in Tanzania, in cooperation with the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

The topic of my bachelor thesis is “Smallholder forestry in Makete District and subsequent product chains”. Smallholder forestry can be considered as a society trend in the region that provides income as a long-term investment and creates a huge range of jobs, especially for people with little education and perspectives. Makete is a district, placed southern Tanzania and known for low development, infertile soils and rough weathers due to its height (around 2000 m above Sea level). Fortunately, it was not my first stay in the region. After finishing school, a couple of years ago, I already stayed in Makete for a year. This helped a lot doing the research.

Ikonda village, the study sites for interviews

My stay in Tanzania for the Bachelor thesis was shaped by little adventures and a couple of throwbacks but I guess that is what made it a so great experience. In the beginning, I had to struggle a bit with different visa regulations but through the great guiding of Dr. Mombo and her associates from Sokoine University everything could be managed. The data collection itself wouldn’t have been possible without my Guide (Amini Ilomo) a former natural resources student that stayed in Makete since he was a kid. He was familiar with the present developments in the region and it was easy for him to find contacts to the people that are involved in the business. The people in the Makete District are said to be sceptical, shy and solitary. But I totally deny it. The data collection was interview based and offered me to get in touch with many different people and places of the society in Makete that were new for me. Many interviews could be made in the village I stayed, but often we also rented motorbikes because public transport didn’t reach everywhere. The bachelor thesis is not written yet but plotting the different actors, networks, and processes in the region is an awesome and interesting time.

Many outcomes of the interviews were comparable to European forestry problems nowadays or in the history, like the staking of livestock in the plantations or the value of plantations depending on the distance to the next road.

Interesting to me were the effects of general circumstances in forestry on the decision-making of involved actors in the value chain. For example, a common decision of all kind of actors is to engage only a part of their capital in forestry business, despite the possibility of larger benefits. Risk spreading for smallholders in Makete District is not only a clever thought, it is a general basic strategy for long term survival in a society with financial insecurity.

The outcomes of the bachelor thesis will contribute to the WoodCluster project.

Oliver Duncker

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