Results show that the majority of the respondents (> 86 %), including some policy makers, in the surveyed villages were less informed on approaches and efforts towards implementation of JFM in these forests, and were less informed on the processes that were involved towards implementation nor the goals, costs and benefits. Specific roles, rights, responsibilities and commitments among the local community and other stakeholders in managing these forest reserves were not clearly spelt out. District by-laws that govern management of forest reserves had not been well translated to the respective village governments, village committees, local communities and other stakeholders. The study revealed a lack of recognition of the importance of traditional institutions on enhanced forest management. For instance, there were no by-laws, including traditional by-laws that have been enacted to strengthen protection of forest reserves at village levels – a fact that could be associated with extensive forest destruction. This study revealed a limited knowledge on costs and benefit sharing among stakeholders on forest management.
However, the local communities were knowledgeable on the importance of forests in provision of wood forest products (WFP) including fuel wood, poles and timber; and as sources of non-wood forest products (NWFP), such as honey and bees’ products, herbal medicine, mushrooms, and environmental recreational goals. However, sustainability of the rich forest resources of Biharamulo and Ngara district are threatened by high rate of immigrants, illegal logging, and illegal trade on forest products and the related effects of deforestation. The majority of the local community that live adjacent to these forest reserves were immigrants from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Congo. Biharamulo and Ngara districts have high rates of population growth, estimated at 5.5 % out of which 3.0 % are immigrants compared to the natural demographic changes (2.5 %). Immigrants pose a threat on sustainability of forest reserves due to forest inversion for expansion of agricultural fields, massive tree felling for charcoal making and pit sawing.
These forest reserves were characterised by high tree species diversity with Afzellia quanzensis, Brachystegia spp., Julbernadia spp., Pericopsis angolensis, Pterocarpus angolensis, and P. tinctorius, being the most dominant species. However, threatened species were declining due to their high extraction rate. Enhanced forest management, for instance PFM, could strengthen conservation of biodiversity of these important forest resources and the environment.
Although implementation of JFM was still in its initial stage, the local communities were less involved in the process for example, in selection of villages to be involved in PFM programme. Involvement of local communities in forest conservation through participatory approaches would create more awareness on the important of forest conservation efforts by capturing both their experiences and indigenous knowledge on best forest management practices.