In 2003, Rob Barbour visited the beautiful village of Matipwili, in Tanzania — looking out onto oxbow lakes, his eyes followed the winding Wami River, far into the sprawling riverine forests that become the Saadani National Park. 38% of Tanzania’s territory is committed to protected areas, including national parks, reserves, and marine parks.
These areas house 20% of Africa’s mammalian population and are home to indigenous communities such as the Wazaramu or Wazigua, the Maasai, and many other unique tribes. Working with the community of Matipwili, the 3,500-hectare community conservation project Kisampa Conservancy was born. Just 100 km north of Dar es Salaam, hugging the boundaries of the Saadani National Park, Kisampa’s mission is centered around the conservation and development of the natural resources on the outskirts of the park’s protected area.
Rob Barbour was born in Kenya, but moved early in his life to Australia, where he grew up and spent 11 years in the military as a medic. He spent 12 years observing the dynamics of and incentives behind the investment strategies of large-scale industrial companies as they pertain to local villages. In his research, he discovered a passion for empowering and enabling communities to manage and benefit from their own natural resources, and began volunteering at Chole Island, inside the Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania. Rob and his wife Jackie worked on behalf of the Chole Island community to build a regional health clinic and train the local staff to operate it.
When Rob first visited in 2003, the villages around Kisampa had incomplete road networks and lacked educational resources pertaining to climate and conservation. Economically, they depended almost exclusively on subsistence farming, fishing, poaching, and illegal charcoal mining from acacia trees. Unfortunately, most of these activities over-exploit the area’s wildlife and biodiversity. Mainly sustained by donations through Tuende Pamoja — a non-profit charity within the conservation and income-generating projects such as beekeeping — the Kisampa Conservancy has supported the community, and actively engaged the villages in forest and wildlife conservation.
Rob actively hired community members to run the Kisampa Conservancy — even his own family members, as they all moved to Matwipili to pursue this mission. This has helped to foster deep nature-oriented relationships between the organization and community members. Partnering with the local secondary school, which now enrolls over 200 students, Kisampa has ensured that the curriculum includes and highlights the importance of nature conservation. Other community contributions include a village library and resource center for everyone.
So far, one of the largest challenges for Kisampa has been forest monitoring and security, to put an end to the illegal poachers and charcoal miners who fell acacia trees for the charcoal trade — still the primary fuel for households in nearby Dar es Salaam. Government support is something the project hopes to attract in the future, and according to Rob, it requires that the project continues to be bulletproof from a compliance standpoint and let the results of the projects speak for themselves.
Forest and biodiversity conservation, present an excellent opportunity for layered solutions like Kisampa to leverage the value of the nature they have restored, without compromising it. Historically, monitoring your land can be challenging — this is because legacy standards require a large land area, and charge steep prices — two variables that would disqualify a small project like Kisampa. OFP’s accessible, open-source, Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) platform comes at no-cost, with no size limitations, allowing Kisampa to openly display the growth of their riverine forests.
OFP’s decentralized MRV (dMRV) delivers robust data verification by sourcing a community of unbiased Validators, who work in tandem with our Project Operators to verify the field data reported on the ground. The field uploads via the OFP mobile app are initiated by Kisampa volunteer and Bangor University student Imani Wilson, who has been instrumental in getting data uploads off the ground. Imani will manage and train a local Kisampa team, onboarding them as Field Agents to continue measurements, ensuring a chain of community knowledge for years to come.
“I’m very passionate about the work that Kisampa is doing, and I’m excited to continue to work with them into the future and witness the community, wildlife and environment flourish. I believe Open Forest Protocol will be crucial in helping us achieve our shared goals of wildlife and environmental conservation”- Imani Wilson, Kisampa Conservancy
“It was like the lights came on.”- Rob Barbour on discovering OFP
As we wrap up our tour of Kisampa, the efforts of the last twenty years have created a sustainable, community integrative model that will nurture the 3,500 hectares of forest for decades to come. Rob envisions Kisampa being a poster project for small-scale community conservation, whose value is not only seen by the government or visitors but also other communities, empowering them to do the same for their forests and natural resources. Together, Open Forest Protocol and Kisampa Conservancy will measure, report, and verify an initial 3,500 hectares of tropical forest, with a vision for the future that opens up other communities to the possibilities of preserving our natural resources.