At the end of December I boarded the recently inaugurated Air Tanzania flight to Mpanda to conduct one of the scheduled bi-annual Finance and Grievance meetings with the Ntakata Mountains project steering committee, composed of representatives from each of the eight participating villages. As is customary whenever we visit one of our project areas, I first met with district leaders and officials, and then headed out to Katuma village to meet with the committee.
The steering committee is comprised of the chairperson, who is elected, and the executive officer, who is a government appointee, one from each of the 8 project villages. The 16 person body serves as the primary governance body for the project, and is Carbon Tanzania’s direct point of contact for all project related issues.
As I arrived, all the leaders were eagerly waiting since this was to be a special meeting. After nearly 3 years this was to be the first announcement of carbon revenues that were available to be transferred to the villages. As we went through the procedural aspects of the meeting and ensured that there were no community grievances, you could see everyone was anxious to get to the part about revenue! As I scribbled “TZS 65,000,000” (US$28,000), the available revenue, on the chalk board you could see that the committee quickly realized that no matter how they chose to divide it every single village would immediately at least double their normal yearly operational and development budgets. After the leaders did a double take at the number, I explained that apart from the 10% that they were meant to send to the district, it was their responsibility communally to divide the revenue as they saw fit and fair.
It was an interesting scene to observe all these people who had long been in positions of leadership but had never been faced with the challenge of distributing resources, as they had never previously had any at their disposable. It was clearly quite a challenge as each village is a different size and has unique conservation challenges that require funds. Only a solution that all parties accepted freely, and by mutual consensus, would be accepted, and eventually the group independently decided to split half the funds evenly between all villages and half based on the size of each village, a reasonable solution indeed!
All villages have for a long time formulated development plans and identified and budgeted for critical needs, but have rarely had access to corresponding funds. As such the room lit up when I collected bank information and they realized they truly would be getting revenue from the carbon in their forest. Each village’s leadership also agreed to take on the responsibility of paying the Village Game Scouts, who had previously been directly supported by Carbon Tanzania. Such a commitment is a clear signal of the communities owning the process and delivery of the project itself.
This meeting represents a new phase in the project, whereas communities have begun to receive tangible financial benefits from the work they have tirelessly been doing to protect the vital ecosystem services provided by their locally owned forests. The committee claimed that in their minds the carbon project had now officially “begun”, and as they were immediately going to start using the funds for community betterment, they would never have an issue explaining “all these carbon things” to their constituents again. Carbon Tanzania and the communities both left the meeting excited about the future of the Ntakata project, both for the landscape and for the people.
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