Forest resources are the main natural endowment of Tanzania. However, it is estimated that the country's forest area has declined from 44,300,000 ha or 50% of total land area in 1938 to 33, 096,000 ha or 43% of total land area in 1987. Currently forests are estimated to cover 33.5 million ha.
Causes of deforestation are mainly heavy pressure from agricultural expansion, livestock grazing, wildfire, and over-exploitation of wood resources. There are no reliable figures on deforestation in Tanzania although according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates, it ranges from 130,000 to 500,000 ha per annum. The major effect of deforestation is the deterioration of the ecological system with result into the negative impacts on soil fertility, water flows, and biological diversity. Forest fires are also rampant particularly in natural forests where monitoring is very difficult. The national capacity to fight fires is quite limited both technically and financially.
Over the past three decades, perspectives on the role of the forest have changed considerably. There is also pressure arising from the ever increasing demand for wood fuels, fodder, and timber and forest land for other uses, especially agriculture. The challenge now is how to manage the forest resources as a national heritage on an integrated basis in order to optimize their environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits.