The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Prof. Jumanne Maghembe has called upon local and international investors to invest more into the Tanzania plantation forestry sector, noting that thousands of hectares of land are yet to be harnessed for forest plantation.

Minister Maghembe made these remarks during the opening of a two-day Tanzania Plantation Investment Forestry Conference which took place in Dar es Salaam from the 15th to 16thNovember.

Organized as a collaboration between UONGOZI Institute, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, FINNFUND and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland, the conference aimed to introduce the development of the plantation forestry sector, promote an enabling environment and increase investments, by creating a platform where participants can begin to address the challenges facing the industry.

In his address, Minister Maghembe said that Tanzania has about 643,000 hectares of forest plantation area under government, private sector as well as medium and small sized farmers.

“Yet the plantation area is not at all enough to satisfy the rapidly increasing demand for sawn timber, wooden panels, paper and cardboard products for the next 10 to 15 years. We therefore welcome companies from in and out of Tanzania to invest in this opportunity,” he said.

According to Minister Maghembe, the combined annual value of forest goods and services is estimated at 2.2 billion US dollars (over 4.4 trillion Tanzanian shillings) which is equivalent to 20.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The sector’s contribution to the economy is increasing at a fast rate owing to increasing demand for forest goods and services, macroeconomic changes and globalization.” said the Minister.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland Hon. Kai Mykkänen said that the cooperation between Tanzania and Finland has lasted for more than 40 years, but during those years it has shifted emphasis towards supporting the private sector and value chains, both in plantation forestry and natural forest management and utilization.

He said that Finland’s biggest programme, the Private Forestry Programme, has a total budget of EUR 20 million in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, indicating that the programme has a key role of providing the following:

“Firstly, we are developing an enabling environment for private forestry. This concerns land availability and security, licensing, pricing and especially wood supply and security to the private sector,” said Hon. Kai Mykkänen.

He continued, “Secondly, we are supporting small-holder tree growers. During the first two years nearly 30 Tree Growers’ Associations have been established involving over 2100 tree growers, men and women. The programme emphasizes women’s participation on forestry activities and entrepreneurship.

He added, “Thirdly, we are supporting wood supply for industry and value chain development; 3400 hectares of new plantations have been established.”

According to the Chief Executive Officer of UONGOZI Institute, Prof. Joseph Semboja, the forestry conference is a continuation in the series of forestry events that started in November 2015 in Helsinki, with the FINNFUND seminar on the role of private sector investments and sustainable forestry in Africa. The conference drew approximately 200 participants from 16 different countries in and out of Africa.