Just a very quick and short blog to announce that Ntakata’s community-led Tongwe Trust and groups from several contributing forest villages have just potted their first batch of honey, the result of a collaboration with the Tanzanian Ministry of Forests and Beekeeping.
This is enormously exciting, and for a handful of excellent reasons. Having secured Ntakata as a Village Land Forest Reserve and therefore as the Tongwe’s new cultural heartland, the Tongwe Trust has spent the last six years protecting the forest against population incursion, the effects of inter-ethnic conflict, the bushmeat trade, and land conversion. Much of the money to do so is raised through grants, donations, and developing the forest as a ‘narrow gauge’ eco-tourist destination. However, the Trust is dedicated to enabling livelihood diversification and sustainable development amongst its community, one of which has included introducing small commercial beekeeping enterprises.
Given the cultural significance of the forest to the Tongwe, the communities that live here consider it vital to their sense of collective identity, and have long utilised it sustainably, their sacred sites guaranteeing river-line and closed-canopy forest, their methods of shifting cultivation and small herds allowing for its constant regeneration, and their cultural practices and taboos proving to be fine conservation tools. Done right, as it is in Ntakata, beekeeping provides the Tongwe with a sustainable and alternative source of income, its success an important example of the rewards of good forest management.
While the Tongwe Trust continues to rely donations and grants to provide the capital required to maintain its operations, the long term aim is ‘to stand on our own two feet’. Together with its tourist operations, nascent eco-businesses such as Tongwe Natural Honey are they way forward. It’s a seriously impressive start-up, one that has required a great deal of work in terms of funding and providing training, equipment, transport, monitoring. Plus and important not to forget, it’s absolutely delicious.
Wild Philanthropy has long partnered with the Tongwe Trust in order to preserve the Ntakata Forest for future generations of the Tongwe as well as initiate mutually beneficial conservation projects within the community. We work along the Trust in the interests of preserving the area through local enterprise-supported sustainable tourism. To learn more about how you can help, please contact Paul Herbertson. If you would like to travel there, please contact Will Jones. If you would like to learn more about its delicious honey, please contact Roland Purcell.