Eastern Usambara Mountains, Tanzania 

Although one of the smallest mountain clusters in the Eastern Arc Mountain chain, the East Usambara Mountains (EUM) remain one of the most ecologically valuable. They are a key biodiversity area, providing precious habitat in their cloud forests for a host of rare and endemic species. Moreover, the cloud forests provide the catchment and main water source for thousands of people living in the nearby town of Tanga. 

Deforestation and landscape degradation are major threats to the EUM. A lack of economic prospects, agricultural progress, and suitable nature-based opportunities persist, leading to poverty spurring forest clearing for agriculture, timber and charcoal. Moreover, although conservation efforts in the EUM have resulted in many achievements, there is little synergy between the multiple NGOs, private sector and governmental actors working towards conservation projects.  

In 2022, Grounded partnered with Commonland to develop regenerative agribusinesses in the EUM. For this project, Grounded and their portfolio company, Trianon Spices, a local Tanzanian spice processing and export company, worked to develop a traceable, organic supply chain of regeneratively grown spices from local smallholder farmers. Trianon links these farmers to both bulk and premium markets to provide an income to many farmers. Additionally, they are working with their farmer suppliers to tackle soil degradation, one of the primary drivers of deforestation in the landscape.  

Additionally, in 2022, WWF partnered with Commonland to engage with all EUM stakeholders and promote cross-sectoral collaboration. They found that most parties would like to collaborate but didn’t have a platform or means to do so. As a result, in 2023, TNC joined WWF and Commonland in this effort, and are currently working towards co-funding and managing landscape co-ordination for the area. TNC is also leading pilot implementation of the Tanga Water Fund, a public-private partnership designed to protect the watershed, keep upstream forests healthy and protect people’s water supply. 

Vision 

With Grounded, we aim for a landscape where regenerative agriculture practices feed families, and livelihoods are supported by sustainable spice production for the local and international market. In addition, through our partnership with WWF and TNC, we aim to create a collaborative multi-stakeholder dialogue in the region that can develop an inspiring, holistic landscape vision. Through both partnerships, we aim to shape a resilient and sustainable landscape that supports the social and economic needs of the people, whilst protecting biodiversity and promoting conservation. 

Challenges 

  • Impoverished rural communities with few livelihood options. 
  • Decreasing soil fertility drives increasing slash-and-burn agriculture (deforestation). 
  • Habitat and biodiversity loss. 
  • Forest loss and climate change impacting availability of water. 

Opportunities 

  • Knowledge of farmers and businesses is already present and training on regenerative farming methods is relatively simple. 
  • Spice production in the region is competitively advantageous with good bio-climatic conditions and organic by default production methods. 
  • Collaborative projects will open new prospects to access funders and long-term support. 
  • NGO’s and government stakeholders willing to collaborate. 
  • Opportunities for carbon credits through collaborative reforestation efforts. 

Impacts so far 

  • 262 farms registered in the training program and certified as organic. 
  • 20 lead farmers and model farms developed. The model farms are set up with regenerative agriculture practices and serve as training centers to promote the adoption of the different practices amongst farmers. 
  • A soil health database was created, and soil testing was conducted for lead farmers. The analysis informed the design of model farms, identifying issues such as organic matter deficiency and soil pathogen infestation. The results provided a baseline for soil health and guided interventions, emphasizing practices to enhance soil organic matter and manage disease.  
  • 11 conservation-focused NGOs beginning consultation with each other regarding project synergies. 
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