Kwamtili Estate, Tanzania
2 Apr 2016
This report was prepared in 2013. An update will be available in early-2019.
Peter Boswell is helping to establish Kwamtili Estate in the Usumbara Mountains, Tanzania, as the possible nucleus of an eco-area. The estate currently produces premium grade cocoa beans for export. This news item summarises the situation and latest developments.
A major concern is the loss of forest cover (see report).
Since mid-2014, a collaboration with the UsitawiNetwork has led to a process to stabilise the estate's forest and cocoa production. Given the situation, details cannot be discussed. However, this webpage will be updated in early-2019 to provide information about the UstitawiNetwork Kwamtili Forest Project to protect Kwamtili Forest and to ensure that the immediate surrounding area occupied by the remainder of Kwamtili Estate is secure.
Kwamtili Estate is an old cocoa estate in northern Tanzania situated in the foothills of the Eastern Usambara Mountains in what is referred to by environmentalists as the Eastern Arc Conservation Hotspot.
The Google Maps cordinates of the estate's cocoa factory (clearly visible in satellite photos) are "-4.922781,38.733802". Enter this in the Google Maps search field.
Arial photo of main house, cocoa factory and dam
Usumbara Mountain region. Kwamtili is located about 5 kilometres to the right of the top end of the green area marked as the East Usumbara Mountains.
The Usambara's (see map) are a part of the ancient Eastern Arc chain which mountains stretch in a broken crescent from the Taita hills in southern Kenya down to Morogoro and the southern highlands. They are estimated to be at least 100 million years old and the rocks forming them may be as much as 600 million years old. The mountains are home to an exceptional assortment of plants and animals and represent one of the highest degrees of biodiversity on the African continent.
The importance of the Eastern Usumbara Mountains is summarised as follows by by the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, see PDF: "The forests of the East Usambaras are among the most important for biodiversity conservation in Africa. Research indicates that if the forests become too fragmented and isolated then a number of the species known only to exist from this area will become globally extinct. Since 2004, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, World Wildlife Fund - Finland has been leading a partnership project (East Usambara Forest Landscape Restoration (EUFLR)) within 28 villages in Muheza and Mkinga Districts that aims at reducing the loss of globally important biodiversity, improve livelihoods and restore a multi-functional landscape in the area. The project is implemented in the field by the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) with technical support from World Wildlife Fund Tanzania Programme Office."
Dating from pre-world war times, Kwamtili Estate originally covered over 5,000 hectares, of which some 1,150 ha were planted with kapok, derris, some cocoa and rubber. After the 1st World War the estate became neglected. In the 1950's the market for kapok and derris declined.
Prior to these developments, the area must have been covered in forest with a large population of Melitia exelsa, locally known as mvule. There is, in fact, still evidence of logging and sawing activities that must have formed part of the economic activities during the estate's heyday.
Efforts are underway to revive the estate based on another company acquiring the assets. This aspect is not discussed.
Today, the estate covers 1,150 ha and can be described in three sections:
- about 770 ha of Kwachawa Mountain forest, virtually conserved, with a respectable population of small animals, birds and, seasonally, butterflies;
- 350 ha of the old cocoa plantation, which was planted with exotic trees for shade for the cocoa crop. This section is of questionable value both economically and environmentally.
- 30 ha of productive cocoa plantation.
Kwachawa Mountain with the estate's dam in the foreground
The photo shows the Kwachawa Mountain forest with some recently planted coco in the foreground (photo taken in 2007). The coco has since become overgrown.
Although not making profit, the estate remains about the only one of its kind in Tanzania today. With cocoa planted under a canopy of old natural forest, it is home for a number of bird and animal species.
To all intents and purposes, Kwamtili Estate is no longer operating as a commercial enterprise. Efforts are underway to transform the estate into a conservation and eco-tourism area that can be used as the basis for community projects and long-term conservation of the indigenous forest while maintaining a viable cocoa operation.
The main aspects of the estate are described below. Those wishing to visit the estate should contact Kwamtili Estate's majority shareholder, Dennis Fielder, who lives in Tanga, in northern Tanzania (the estate is about 50 km inland from Tanga). The contact details are tel/fax: +255-27-2646232; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location and access
Kwamtili Estate is a cocoa plantation situated in Mkinga District, Tanga Region, in north-eastern Tanzania, about 50 km from the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is situated at the foot of the Usambara Mountains Complex and has an area of 1,150 ha, which includes 770 ha of forest. Most of this forest covers the Kwachawa Mountain, which itself is approximately 680 ha.
The estate is accessible from Tanga by an earth road which connects Maramba to Tanga, some 50 km away. There are regular mini-buses from near the estate to both Tanga and Muheza.
From within the estate, there are tracks that connect it to Amani Nature Reserve, see www.amaninature.org. These tracks are currently not motorable, but potentially they can be upgraded to rural road status.
Goods and crops are transported from surrounding villages by trucks. In the wet season, when the rural roads are particularly bad, the trucks must be assisted by tractors.
The village of Chula lies on the eastern boundary of the estate and can be used as a reference for Google maps. The Google image in the figure above shows the boundaries of the estate.
The estate is isolated with only a part of the southern boundary adjoining a forest reserve. For the other boundaries, the western boundary has a well-defined natural boundary (a seasonal stream in a valley) and part of the eastern boundary is effectively defined by a densely forested seasonal watercourse. But there are significant parts of the boundaries that are not well defined. Areas adjacent to these boundaries are largely sharecropped.
The Usitawi Network has supported community development projects to encourage cocoa growing and other aspects of the estate's activities, see www.usitawi.org/en/projects/kwamtili-community-development-project
The area surrounding the estate is impoverished and mainly occupied by small subsistence-level farms. However, a sizeable vilage has grown up on the other side of the Muzi River that defines the western boudary.
An earth road, largely unmaintained, connecting villages to Maramba, Muheza and Tanga passes through the estate.
The East Usambara Mountains are almost entirely within Muheza District in Tanga region, apart from some smaller parts in the west that fall in Korogwe District. The mountains rise to an altitude of 1,506 m at Mt Nilo. The population is 101,767 people distributed across 61 villages in the areas. Outside of reserves, most of the forest has been cleared for farmland, apart from in the proposed Derema Forest Reserve and some other areas proposed as Village Forest Reserves (the proposed Derema Forest Corridor is described here - PDF unavailable). Some forest also remains in private land - for example, in the lowland Kwamtili Estate.
The Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund website gives some information about the East Usumbara mountains, www.easternarc.or.tz/eusam
A brief history
In modern times, in 1958, the owner of the estate died and was laid to rest within the farm. Management of the estate was left to his wife. Subsequently, the company was run from a town office in Tanga, some 50 km. The majority shareholder initiated some major agricultural projects in the 1990's and sold his shares in 2000 to the current majority shareholder, who manages the estate. Most other shareholders no longer exist and the company is in the process of confirming the share register. The estate enjoys a 17-year leashold.
The climate in the Kwamtili area is predominantly governed by the atmospheric circulation of the inter-tropical convergence zone, a low pressure zone with adjacent high pressure zones oscillate north and south annually resulting in a monsoon climate with a bi-modal rainfall regime.
Thus, the climate can be classified as a tropical bi-modal savannah climate with a difference of less than 5°C between the mean monthly temperature of the warmest (February, March: maximum temperature = 31°C) and the coldest months (July, August: maximum temperature = 27°C). The man annual rainfall is about 1500 mm falling mainly in April/May and in October/November.
As mentioned above, the estate is bounded by the Muzi River to the west. This river is perennial, although the flow decreases in the dry season. Several seasonal streams flow from the Kwachawa Mountain into the central part of the estate. A dam has been built in the centre of the estate and is able to support cocoa processing and a limited watering of young plants most of the year.
The view across the Muzi River from the main house. A proposal has been developed to bring water across the valley from the hills in the distance. These hills are the Eastern Usumbara Mountains.
In general therefore, there is a lack of permanent, bilharzia-free water. A scheme to pipe water from hills beyond the western boundary seems unrealistic given that villages would take off water and leave little if any pressure available for reaching the estate.
There are apparently no permanent springs on the estate, and while the dam provides significant storage, it is seasonal and can only be used for agriculture and cocoa processing.
A borehole near the main house is unserviceable and records are apparently unavailable. So a programme of tests bores as part of a water management plan is probably needed to evaluate potential permanent borehole resources.
However, a limited seasonal use of water runoff with storage in tanks may be sufficient for say tourist activities part of the year.
The soil conditions at the estate vary considerably over short distances. Most soils of the area are ferruginous, deep, sandy clays and clays, moderately acid, but fairly well provided with nutrients. Many soils however are gravely and/or shallow which are crucial factors for root development and moisture storage. Five different soil series have been recognised, each with a number of phases for slope, effective depth and presence of gravel occurring in a complex pattern over short distances.
About 35% or 170 ha of the estate has a high gravel content, resulting in only marginal potential for cultivation. Deep and very deep soils cover 80 ha and 100 ha of the estate respectively, of these areas however, 84 ha have soils with drainage problems or are subject to regular flooding.
The overall results of the land evaluation in terms of the physical suitability indicates that the Kwamtili Estate in general has a limited potential for the cultivation of cocoa. Highly to moderately suitable land for cocoa covers only approximately 30% of the estate. Moreover, the strong variability of the soil conditions over short distances and the consequent complexity of the physical suitability of the estate lands within each block strongly affect the management of the estate and how the cocoa is planted (it is planted in relatively small areas scattered throughout the areas most suited for cocoa).
Most of this information comes from an old Dutch survey, see PDF
Present vegetation and land use
The present vegetation in the area can be described generally as mixed forest. On the Kwachawa Mountain the vegetation is predominantly of indigenous species. In the lower areas, there are patches of planted forest species, which were introduced as shade trees for cocoa.
Parts of the estate are planted with cocoa, cashew and small-scale garden crops. On the periphery of the estate and surrounding areas, regular cultivation for annual subsistence crops such as maize and beans is the main land use.
This cultivation is permitted under agreements with the estate owner in exchange for a defined quantity of produce.
Cocoa with shade trees
In the 1960's an area of about 85 ha was planted with cocoa. Today, about 35,000 of the cocoa trees that were planted on this area are still surviving. In 2002, an additional 19 ha were planted with cocoa, with 5 ha planted in 2004 and 2 ha planted in 2007.
The estate infrastructure includes a main residential house thast is reasonably livable, various stores (all in working order) and a cocoa processing factor in working order.
Looking up the drive to the main house in 2011
The main house in 2011
The main house in 2010
The main house in 2004
The cocoa processing factory
Kwamtili Estate's interest in ecotourism was taken up by the East Usambara Forest Landscape Restoration Project (seewww.tfcg.org/docs/project_usambara_e.htm) in 2008. The estate aims to become a conservation and eco-tourism area. Its location forms a major break in the Eastern Usambara natural forest.
The objective of the transformation into a conservation and eco-tourism area is to assist in defragmentation efforts of the Eastern Usambara forest.
For further information, please contact Peter Boswell, email@example.com