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A logging boom has hit Tanzania’s tourist-drawing
Kilimanjaro region, reducing the region’s native forests, hitting rainfall and
leading to unusually high temperatures.
The increasingly extreme weather has come as a surprise to
people who live a stone’s throw from one of the world’s heritage sites, and who
had been used to a cold, misty climate.
Joshua Meena, 72, a resident of Machame, told  AlertNet
that the annual rainfall in the region has been dwindling from year to
year  over the past decade, affecting  farmers who depend on growing
coffee and bananas for a living.
“Our livelihood is affected because these crops thrive under
a cool climate and also need enough water,” he said.

And in Moshi municipality, eyebrows are raised at the
region’s rising temperatures, which now sometimes surpass 30 degrees Celsius
(86 degrees Farenheit) – on occasion higher than the country’s normal hottest
places, Dar es Salaam and Tanga.
“I have not seen a situation like this before, the heat is
just too much. We virtually do not need sweaters and  jackets,” said
Onesmo Masawe, a resident of Moshi.
TIMBER AND CHARCOAL
Forests play an in important role in maintaining natural
water cycles around Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the region’s forests are disappearing
as a result of growing demand for timber across and country and unmanaged
logging of trees for timber and charcoal making, residents in the region say.
The government has accused unscrupulous timber dealers, who
collude with corrupt officials, for driving the destruction. But forests also
have come under pressure as people in the area struggle to meet their energy
needs by making charcoal.
Particularly hard hit are the region’s “Erica” trees, which
thrive above 2,700 meters (8,850 feet) above sea level and that local people
believe are crucial to helping collect cloud moisture. The trees, now on the
verge of extinction, according to people in the village of Machame, also
provide traditional medicine used to treat fever and diarrhoea.
Growing rainfall shortages in Machame have led some farmers
to set up irrigation systems for their fields, while others have moved to
cities to find other work.
In Marangu district, a visiting AlertNet reporter could
hardly find people working in the fields during the day. Many Marangu residents
have moved to Arusha and Dar es Salaam because their farms are not coping well
with the drier conditions. They only convene back in the villages during
Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Jerome Temba, a resident of Marangu, said because of
increasing temperatures some tour guides no longer see the need to help
tourists acclimate to colder weather before they trek into high altitudes
around Mt. Kilimanjaro.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP), reduced rainfall and increasing temperatures in Kilimanjaro have
increased the vulnerability to fire and cutting of the region’s forests.
Statistics obtained from UNEP website estimate that between
1976 and 2012, over 15,445 hectares (38,000 acres) of rainforests in the region
have been destroyed.
The regional government is taking measures to combat illegal
logging and to sensitize local people about the importance of conserving their
environment, said Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner Leonidas Gama.
“There is no doubt whatsoever inadequate rainfall and higher
temperatures in the region is the impact of climate change which is contributed
to by our own actions,” he said in a telephone interview.
Gama said the government was embarking on a reforestation
drive which aims to plant one million trees in two years in collaboration with
governmental and private institutions.
SHRINKING RESERVOIRS
A watchdog NGO made up of journalists from the Journalists
Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET), conducted an assessment in
Kilimanjaro in April, which found that water reservoirs in the region also are
being hit by the changing conditions.
Local authorities interviewed by JET estimated that that
Lake Jipe  has receded by 100 meters in just three years while Nyumba ya
mungu Dam has lost almost two-thirds of its water, affecting hydro-electricity
production.
A Tanzanian member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), Pius Yanda, concurs that the rise in temperature in Kilimanjaro
region is a result of  global warming.
“In recent years there has been severe deforestation in
Kilimanjaro region and that has left many parts devoid of natural vegetation
and soil cover. Global warming is a worldwide phenomenon and in Kilimanjaro
region local factors have contributed in rising temperatures,” Yanda was quoted
in local media as saying.
Yanda observed that deforestation has not been addressed
effectively and said he believes temperatures are set to rise even higher if
the problem of deforestation is not solved soon.
Source: AlertNet

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