One of the main components of the SFS program is Directed Research (DR) which has two sections. First, there is research itself which involves proposal write-up, field data collection, data analysis and report write-up. Second, there is the presentation, whereby students present their research findings to faculty and later to the community (stakeholders). In most cases this is done at the end of the semester’s DR.
Last semester (fall 2013), the DR community presentation opened up a new chapter for the SFS Tanzania Center. During a discussion session, a councilor from Kansay Ward, supported by the Karatu District Planning Officer, requested that the Center present the environmental policy research reports done in their area to its community, at ward or village level meetings. Almost all ward and village council members attend these meetings. The request was accepted by Center Director Dr. Bernard Kissui, and in collaboration with Karatu District Council they arranged a ward level presentation that was held on March 20, 2014 at the Kansay Ward office. The three main objectives were: (a) to present the research report, (b) to discuss the research findings and recommendations, and (c) to formulate actions based on feasible recommendations for implementation.
I presented the report, “The Study on Economic, Ecological and Cultural Values of the Proposed Buger, Kambi ya Faru and Kansay Community Forest Reserve in Karatu District, Tanzania” to the thirty-one members of Ward Development Committees of Buger and Kansay Wards that includes: honorable councilors and ward executive officers of Buger and Kansay Wards; governing councils members of five villages namely Buger, Ayalaliyo, Kansay, Kambi ya Faru and Laja villages; ward agricultural and livestock extension officers; and headmasters of primary and secondary schools in the area. In addition, the District Environmental and Natural Resources Officer and the District Planning Officer attended the presentation. The area of the above mentioned forest is about 781 hectares and surrounded by five villages and they intended to conserve it as a water catchment forest.
The presentation was followed by active discussions from the participants whereby non-adherence to work ethics among village leaders and government officials, political catalyzed forest destructive actions, and delays of ruling of forest-based cases in the local courts were identified as the main factors contributing to forest and water source degradation in the area. For effective implementations of the recommendations, the following actions were formulated for the Buger and Kansay Ward development committees:
- The community should be educated on the importance of conserving environment and water sources. The District Council should take a role with support from NGOs.
- Village leaders and government officials at ward and village levels should effectively participate in the enforcement of conservation laws and village by-laws.
- The Karatu District Council should be responsible for conducting an evaluation of the conservation initiatives done by villages.
- The village environmental committees should formulate an Annual Plan of Operations for environmental conservation.
- For the smooth coordination and monitoring of environmental conservation activities at the ward level, it was agreed that each ward should form a Ward Environmental Committee.
- Beekeeping as a viable economic and conservation project at the household level should be promoted by all development stakeholders in the area.
- Each village should encourage its people to form beekeeping groups especially women-led beekeeping groups.
From this event above I learned the following: (a) Students DR outputs are useful tools in solving local community conservation and economic development problems as long as they are presented to the right audience. (b) In the future there is a need to separate participants of community presentation on a topic basis as interests and uses of research findings differ among participants. (c) Some DR recommendations can be used as students community service projects.