Tanzanian Communities Now Supply FSC-certified Timber to Serengeti Park Ecolodge

FSC / Iván Castro
FSC / Iván Castro
July 14, 2020
Category : General news

Rural communities in south-east Tanzania are reaping the fruits of their responsible forest management.

They recently started supplying FSC-certified timber to expand an eco-lodge, located in the Serengeti National Park, one of the most famous parks in Africa.

Fifteen certified communities will benefit from long-running contracts to supply FSC-certified and kiln-dried sawn timber to Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp for its ongoing rehabilitation and expansion projects. The Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp is located in the Serengeti National Park, a park home to millions of wild animals – including zebras and wildebeests. The FSC-certified communities have already supplied a total of 43 cubic meters of kiln-dried sawn timber to the lodge since July 2018. 


In 2009, these Tanzanian villagers formed the first group to obtain FSC certification for a community-managed natural forest in Africa, with the support of the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative (MCDI). To date a total of over 200,000 hectares forests are FSC certified through this group certificate. (MCDI) facilitated the deal with the Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp. 

The eco lodge investors first heard about the local certified communities directly through FSC. They signed an initial contract with the village of Liwiti in 2018, and then with two other villages, Likawage and Sautimoja, in 2019 and early 2020. Later this year, 12 additional villages are expected to sign contracts with the eco lodge. 

A high-profile and ethical company, Grumeti opted to purchase timber from a sustainable and responsible source. This decision has led to an increase in the value of timber, with the average premium being 60 per cent higher than in the normal market. It will also help to stamp out competition from illegal logging sources.

Concrete benefits for the communities

Adhering to FSC's guidelines, principles, and criteria has primarily helped the communities manage their forests responsibly and ensure these forests remain healthy for future generations. 

Now, thanks to the revenues generated from the sawn timber, these communities – comprising over 7,500 people – are investing in social services and infrastructure. For instance, they created local jobs for approximately 400 community members (more than 50% youth and 20% women). In addition, 100 primary and secondary school students – including 70 girls – benefited from new classrooms, school toilets and school desks. Housing for teachers was also built, and school lunches have been provided for free to the students. This contract also enabled villagers to build a timber yard and save revenues to develop a dispensary in Liwiti. 


Besides infrastructure, the communities managed to provide relief food supplies worth around USD $5,000 to 100 households who were victims of widespread flooding and the disastrous effects of extreme weather in early 2020. A motorcycle for patrolling the villages and monitoring the surrounding forest has also been purchased. 

These numerous development projects have created incentives for local communities to look after their forests in a more responsible and sustainable manner.

A model to be replicated

Together, MCDI and Grumeti contribute to the conservation of wildlife habitats and tropical forests in Tanzania whilst supporting the livelihoods of rural  communities who depend on these forests for their survival.

For Mr. Makala Jasper, MCDI Chief Executive Director, the Grumeti venture is a model that could be replicated for other potential buyers and developers: "At present, Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp is the main buyer of the communities' FSC-certified timber and they are a game-changer, playing an invaluable role in changing the attitudes of buyers who are relying on illegal timber sources, and others who are implementing projects without sustainable forest management practices in mind.”


By managing their forests sustainably through the FSC group certification scheme, local communities – such as the ones working with MCDI – get multiple benefits from their responsible timber harvesting. FSC certification is an opportunity for local communities to add value to timber, resulting in increased revenues. 

As FSC certification allows them to receive a higher premium for their timber, they are able to achieve a level of financial autonomy which allows them to keep harvesting timber without external financing.