The role of smallholder woodlots in global restoration pledges - lessons from Tanzania.
In the past decade, concern for forest loss has spurred ambitious restoration goals for climatic, ecological, and livelihood benefits. Restoration activities typically rely on government-led or large-scale tree planting. A narrow focus on top-down initiatives could promote the recentralization of forestry activities and overlook important contributions by smallholders, especially in Africa. Smallholder tree planting activities are harder to track than institutional efforts. Here we quantify the extent of tree planting on smallholder woodlots in southern and eastern Tanzania, in comparison to large-scale plantations. In Google Earth Pro, we digitized all woodlots in randomly selected areas, and estimated woodlots' area, distribution, and expansion rate. We found that by year 2018, woodlots in the smallest size class (<1 Ha) made up about half of the overall tree planting extent, covering an area equivalent to the government and corporate plantations. What's more, smallholder woodlots have been planted more recently: 54% of the digitized samples were planted between 2012 and 2015, a sign of woodlots' rising prominence. The vast majority of all planted trees were non-native pine and eucalyptus. Thus far, Tanzanian smallholders are planting trees in response to regional timber demand. Subsidies or incentives linked to global restoration goals could encourage more diverse planting and longer harvesting cycles. Given African countries' recent massive restoration pledges (e.g., Tanzania's 5.2 M Ha), we recommend explicit incorporation of smallholder tree planting to maximize livelihood and governance benefits.