Vegetation of Tanzania

Vegetation of Tanzania

Forests and woodlands in Tanzania cover 38.8 million ha representing about 40.4 percent of the total land area. Out of this area, 13 million ha have been gazetted as forest reserves while about 1.6 million ha of the gazetted forest reserves are underwater catchment management. Woodland is the dominant forest type covering large areas in the western and southern parts of the country. The land-use types in Tanzania are smallholder cultivation (4.1 percent), large-scale agriculture (0.6 percent), grazing land (46.9 percent), forests and woodlands (40.4 percent), urban development land (1.7 percent), and inland waters (6.3 percent).Secondary forests are defined as forests regenerating largely through natural processes after significant human and natural disturbances of the original forest vegetation and displaying a major difference in forest structure and canopy species composition with respect to nearby primary forests on similar sites. Going by this definition, five types of secondary forests have been discussed in this paper.

The post-extraction secondary forests include the famous miombo woodlands in the country. They are found almost throughout Tanzania at altitudes ranging from 300 m to 1300 m depending on the climatic conditions. They are managed for the supply of fine hardwood to meet the domestic demand for wood-based products. The miombo forests are also renowned for beekeeping, hunting, and charcoal production activities.

The fallow secondary forests can be compared with woodland with scattered cropland in the vegetation distribution map of Tanzania. It is found along the central railway line, mainly in the drier central plateau of the country. They sustain the extraction of fuelwood and construction poles, which are essential inputs to the livelihoods of forest adjacent communities.

The rehabilitated secondary forests are largely degraded lands due to overgrazing and shifting agriculture. These found in Dodoma and Shinyanga regions. The Government of Tanzania is spending a lot of money to restore the vegetation on gullies and bare lands. As these are areas recovering from overgrazing, forests in this category are used mainly by people living around as firewood and as fodder crops.

A number of by-laws are also in place to control wildfires, shifting cultivation, and other known agents of deforestation.

The post-fire secondary forests cover large areas in Tanzania, much of it has developed as a result of frequent fires and overgrazing. The extensive savannah woodlands in the semi-arid central, western, and southern parts of the country constitute a post fire secondary zone where the potential for forestry as a major productivity activity is high. However vast tracts of land under this category are game controlled areas. Otherwise, grazing is an important activity in this forest category, which is more often regarded as potential rangeland.

The post abandonment secondary forests are generally drylands with low potential for regeneration. They are used by the local communities as rangelands in central Tanzania and as potential farmlands in the southern part of the country.

Several approaches have been tried to put the secondary forests under effective management. These include the traditional woodland management approach where a forest manager would plan and manage a woodland in isolation to the participatory forest management approach which is a strategy to achieve sustainable forest management by promoting the management of woodland by involving communities living close to the forest resources. Whatever approach chosen these forests are still faced with a number of problems such as deforestation, land degradation, lack of inventory data necessary for planning and management, etc. Deforestation and land degradation are a result of, among other things, insecure land tenure, resulting from the absence of land use planning.

Some recommendations have been put forward for sustainable secondary forest management in the country; the following are highlights of the same.

  • Secondary forests were left without proper management in the past because of the policy, which focused on the management of fast-growing exotic forest plantations to meet the industrial wood demand in the country. Since the situation has changed today, FBD should use this scenario to improve the management of these forests.
  • As most deforestation and land degradation are taking place in non-reserved forests, clear legal ownership should be treated as a priority activity.


Where to see wildlife in Tanzania
Best places to see Wildlife in Tanzania
Best time to see wildlife in Tanzania