Ethically sound bagpipes – from Tanzania, Africa

Edinburgh,  (ANI): Two communities in Tanzania have gained appreciation for making bagpipes from ethical sources of wood for the first time.

Most Highland bagpipes, other traditional Scottish pipes and clarinets are made from African blackwood, which comes from the rare and threatened mpingo tree found only in certain parts of Africa. Now, according to a report in The Scotsman, two communities in Tanzania have been awarded certification for managing their forests sustainably.

The villages – the first to get the award in Africa – are focusing on growing sustainable stocks of African blackwood. The certification, by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of the world’s forests, means a market for ethically-sourced bagpipes can spring up.   Flora and Fauna International, involved in the Mpingo Conservation Project in Tanzania, said it was also a golden opportunity for the communities to lift themselves out of poverty. By taking control of the forests from international logging firms and selling responsibly harvested timber, the communities will be able to earn 250 times more from their woodlands – about 13 pounds per log compared with 5p before.

According to Greg Canning, retail manager at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, it would help protect stocks of the blackwood in the future.  “It will give the consumer a bit of choice. From our point of view, it’s encouraging. It’s a hugely positive step. If nothing else, it means there will be a sustainable source of blackwood. There is a fear that the resources are really dwindling,” he said.

“Previously, we just used blackwood without thought, but we have learned that it is a valuable resource. Now, we see that we can utilize our stocks to benefit us all as villagers,” said Kikole village chairman Mwinyimkuu Awadhi.

“When we started this project, we began to see the benefits that could arise from managing our forests,” local farmer Mwanaiba Ali Mbega said. “Now, we have reached the stage of certification we are confident we are going to bring long-term benefits that we will be able to pass on to our grandchildren,” he added. (ANI)

About Mike Chisholm

Bagpiper, writer, fisherman and father born and raised in Nova Scotia, now living in Vancouver area.
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One Response to Ethically sound bagpipes – from Tanzania, Africa

  1. Vince says:

    That is certainly excellent news and a testament to the hard work of the Mpingo Conservation Project, who have worked for at least two decades to reach this point. The first blackwood from these managed sources in Tanzania actually hit the market a couple of years ago. What is generally not known is that up until now 70-90% of blackwood that hit market was harvested illegally. The rest was being burned away to clear land for more lucrative farming. Since it can take 50 years or more for a mpingo tree to reach harvest quality for musical instruments, there was (and is still) real danger of the tree being harvested to commercial extinction, as it has on the western coast African countries already. (There are some who may poo-poo it, but the threat is real.) These sustainable programs are a godsend for pipemakers, pipers, and the actual villagers who are responsible for this forestry.

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