Market Development for Timber from Community-Managed Forests in Tanzania

Partnerships for Forests is supporting Sound and Fair Ltd to strengthen and diversify demand for FSC-certified timber from community-managed forests in Tanzania.


Tanzania’s forest communities rely on some of the world’s lowest incomes, with households living on an average of less than US$ 1 per day and depending heavily on forests for their livelihoods. While Tanzania has considerable forest cover – estimated at 48 million hectares in 2015 – it is being depleted at around 370,000 hectares each year.

Since the 1990s, legislative reform known as Participatory Forest Management has been implemented to halt deforestation and encourage sustainable forest management with local communities. Communities are able take ownership of forest areas by establishing Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs), managed by local committees. With this categorisation, community members can claim logging rights and retain 100 percent of the revenue.

Tanzanian NGO Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (MCDI) has helped establish 175,000 hectares of these VLFRs since 2009. All FSC-certified, the continuing success of the Reserves requires demand for FSC 100% labelled timber to expand rapidly.

About Sound and Fair

Sound and Fair – a UK based timber distribution and marketing company whose primary export market is musical instruments – has been a key stakeholder in this programme since its establishment. On its own, demand from musical instrument manufacturers will not make full use of the productive capacity of the FSC forests, so market development is needed to diversify demand from a range of industry sectors.

Sound and Fair’s business plan is also currently based on five key timber species for which markets are known and understood. General demand for timber in Tanzania rests on these key species and places significant pressure on their supply.

For the economic and environmental sustainability of the FSC-certified forests to continue in the long-term, all available species need to be harvested; this presents a challenge as not all will be commercially viable, certainly in the short run. Plus, new markets are expensive and risky for any business to establish, especially one in an early development stage.

The Project

Partnerships for Forests is supporting Sound and Fair to strengthen and diversify demand for the available quotas of FSC 100% timber from a wide variety of species within a fully integrated timber business model that leverages community managed forests through:

  • increased sales of FSC 100% wood for musical instruments exports​;
  • timber industry development through research and development into the potential of working with a variety of species of FSC 100% wood​; and
  • building economically viable, legal and sustainable supply chains by maximising revenue flows to community producers and supporting partners​.

Market development activities will be focused locally within Tanzania, regionally within East and Southern Africa and internationally – especially high value export markets in the EU, USA and Japan, where timber regulations are increasing demand for FSC 100% timber and where there are opportunities for promoting ethical, community-produced timber.

It is estimated that by 2020, the project will mobilise £2.89 million of private investment and bring approximately 250,000 ha under sustainable management. In addition, up to 17,500 households stand to benefit from the project by 2020.

Lead Organisation: Sound and Fair Ltd

Implementing Organisations:

Private: Sound and Fair Ltd

Civil Society: WWF, MCDI

Current status