PRESIDENT John Magufuli has directed the Tanzania Forest Services Agency (TFS) to consider abandoning log exports to allow the country to fully realise the benefits of forest resources.
He said that log exports do not only deny the government its share of revenue but also block employment to its people.
"When you export raw logs you also deny employment opportunities to the citizens, thus we should be prepared to ensure that in the near future, these resources are being used in the country to produce wood products," Dr Magufuli said on Wednesday at the launch of the Chato Forest Plantation in Geita Region, which he named Silayo Forest Plantation.
During the launch of the tree plantation covering 69,000 hectares, the president declared the farm to be named after the TFS Chief Executive Officer Prof Dos Santos Silayo in honour of his tireless efforts to ensure the forest is conserved.
He further called upon the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, together with TFS and other stakeholders including the Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA) -- to build capacity to youth engaged in production of wood products so that that they could conduct the business effectively.
"You should make sure they are well-trained and provided with capital to produce quality products. This will also help the country to stop importing furniture," he noted.
Dr Magufuli also ordered the ministry and TFS to create an enabling environment for small-scale timber dealers, accusing councils of frustrating them by imposing huge taxes on their businesses.
"Some council officials have been frustrating timber traders by charging them huge taxes. Some are arrested from time to time, but the same officials forgo large-scale timber dealers who evade taxes," he said.
He called upon the public to prepare for economic benefits arising from the forest plantation, including the construction of factories adjacent to forest plantations.
"We should not wait to start looking for markets of our logs ... we should abandon log exports," he insisted.
Dr Magufuli said that forests have several benefits, thus people should stop invading preserved areas so as to realise the rewards.
The president added that during his first term of leadership, the government suspended the removal of more than 900 villagers situated in protected areas for wildlife and forests, cautioning that it should not be used as an excuse for people to continue invading the areas.
Apart from preserving water sources in 15 rivers that flow into Lake Victoria, the Silayo Forest Plantation, the second largest after the Sao Hill Forest Plantation, which covers 135,900 hectares, is a habitat to innumerable living organisms.
Dr Magufuli noted that according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Tanzania has forests which are habitat to numerous endangered biodiversity. "Among 25 areas worldwide six are in Tanzania," he said.
TFS chief Prof Silayo said that his organisation established the tree farm due to a number of reasons, among them to improve conservation of the area which had lost its vegetative cover.
The tree farm has also been set up to ensure sustainability of wood related raw materials to meet the country's demand especially in Lake Zone and neighbouring countries, he said.
"Apart from producing poles, the farm will also encourage the construction of factories which will provide employment to our people and reduce dependency on natural forests," he said.
He added that currently the project provides 800 employments to people adjacent to the forest plantation noting that more people will benefit from the project in the near future.