Agriculture is the main driver of deforestation in Tanzania

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Environmental Research Letters


Reducing deforestation can generate multiple economic, social and ecological benefits by safeguarding the climate and other ecosystem services provided by forests. Understanding the relative contribution of different drivers of deforestation is needed to guide policies seeking to maintain natural forest cover. We assessed 119 randomly selected plots from areas deforested between 2010 and 2017, in Tanzania. Through ground surveys and stakeholder interviews we assessed the proximate deforestation drivers at each point. Crop cultivation was the most commonly observed driver occurring in 89% of plots, compared to livestock grazing (69%) and charcoal (35%). There was evidence of fire in 77% of plots. Most deforestation events involved multiple drivers, with 83% of plots showing signs of two or more drivers. Stakeholder interviews identified agriculture as the primary deforestation driver in 81% of plots, substantially more than charcoal production (12%), timber harvesting (1%) and livestock (1%). Policy-makers in Tanzania have sought to reduce deforestation by reducing demand for charcoal. However, our work demonstrates that agriculture, not charcoal, is the main driver of deforestation in Tanzania. Beyond protected areas, there is no clear policy limiting the conversion of forests to agricultural land. Reducing deforestation in Tanzania requires greater inter-sectoral coordination between the agriculture, livestock, land, energy and forest sectors.


Environ. Res. Lett. 15 (2020) 034028


Deforestation, Forest degradation, Drivers, Charcoal, Forest transition model, Tanzania