The Timber Rush: Private Forestry in Village Land
A little known timber rush is going on in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania primarily driven by domestic investments. Recent reports and government project documents estimate that private forest plantations are increasing fast and that the large private timber companies in the southern Highlands have been overtaken by smallholders’ expanding plantations woodlots and plantations on village land. They furthermore indicate that the Timber Rush may be driven by domestic industrial demand for timber. However, it has not been researched if this is the case or if other drivers also contribute to the Timber Rush. The overall aim of the research project is to contribute to a more equitable distribution of benefits from private plantations on village land through evidence-based policy making. The proposed project aims to apply state-of-the-art approaches to explore this hitherto understudied phenomenon in Tanzania and contribute to the literature on increased domestic investments in land and timber in sub-Saharan Africa. This is pursued through two research objectives: First, to investigate the scale and drivers of the current investments in the timber rush. The project will test the associated hypothesis that investments are first and foremost driven by domestic factors related to increased market demand for timber for industrial use, particularly construction, nationally and in the East African region; Second, to investigate the impact of investments in land for timber production on local people’s access to and benefits from land and other resources. The project will test the associated hypothesis that the main beneficiaries of investments in timber production are to be found among the domestic investors based in Tanzania’s urban areas while local people bear the costs. Also, the project provides for capacity building to strengthen the social science approach to the study of forest and natural resource management at Sokoine University of Agriculture.