Friday Feature: Raymond Nlelwa, TFCG Field Officer

Every Friday we will feature someone involved with ARC - Board members, Junior Board members, TFCG staff on the ground in Tanzania, partners, and our volunteers and interns. We hope that this feature will help you to get to know the many faces behind ARC and connect with our mission on a deeper level. This week we are featuring TFCG Field Officer Raymond Nlelwa.

Raymond currently coordinates field activities for ARC's field partner the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG),  in the Lindi Region of southern Tanzania. Prior to joining TFCG, Raymond worked for the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Dodoma (Tanzania's capital) as a horticulturist assistant and at the Vi Agroforestry Project as a village extension agent. Raymond attended Sokoine University of Agriculture and received a BSc in forestry. He joined TFCG in 2004 and has spent the better part of his career working in some of the most remote areas of Tanzania. Raymond is married and has two daughters. He grew up in the Arusha Region of northern Tanzania.

What project are you currently working on? Any milestones or accomplishments to share?
I am currently managing the “Making REDD work for Communities and Forest Conservation in Tanzania” project, which is a project that addresses climate change through natural forest conservation. Most recently, the project conducted biodiversity surveys and disturbance studies in the local forests in order to collect baseline information. We also conducted land use planning in nine villages and supported the construction of a village office.

What do feel is the biggest challenge facing Tanzania’s forests?
I think the biggest challenge facing Tanzania's forests is deforestation and forest degradation. Tanzania’s forests have been under a lot of pressure due to the dependence on them by rural villages, especially for fuelwood because gas and electricity are too expensive for most people to afford. Even in the big cities like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza, and Tanga, most people depend on wood as a source of energy. If you do the calculations you will see that an individual’s consumption of wood in a day, week, month and a year puts a lot of pressure on the forests. Also many houses in rural areas are constructed using wood, and when you consider that over 60% of Tanzanians live in rural areas that is a lot of wood!

What do you enjoy most about working with TFCG?

TFCG is a learning/teaching institution that you can learn a lot pertaining to the field of forestry. I am proud to work with the organization because it has a strong leadership that focuses on the future. Everyone from the top management level to the field attendant level are hard working and active, and a lot of us have been here for many years which is good for the morale.

How has your work with TFCG inspired you or changed your life?
TFCG is very committed to the capacity-building of its employees through trainings, meetings, and conferences, which is something that has really helped me develop my career. Having a job means that I am able to provide for my family and I have managed to build a small house where my family and I live together.

Do you have a favorite animal or plant found in the forest?
My favorite tree is the Kiaat Tree (Pterocarpus angolensis), which is native to Eastern and Southern Africa and produces really good timber. Unfortunately, this tree are now endangered due to its high demand.

What is one thing you want people not from Tanzania to know about your country?
Tanzania is full of amazing natural resources. The second highest mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro, is found in Tanzania. Tanzania is a center for the tourism industry in East Africa, with many national parks, game reserves, and nature reserves.