In the rapidly growing Tanzanian economy, increasing demand for timber and limited wood supply from industrial plantations and natural forests have opened a new livelihood opportunity for smallholder farmers in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, which is undergoing a tree-growing boom. In the absence of support services, research and statistics, the magnitude of the phenomena has remained unclear, along with the farmers’ capability to meet market demands, access the markets, and negotiate prices. Primary qualitative data were collected to clarify the role of smallholder tree growers in the forest transition process and wood value chain using 60 semi-structured tree farmer interviews in four villages, and through interviews of timber buyers and processors. The findings indicate that the strong market demand has created dual markets, where higher quality industrial plantations mainly supply larger industries, whereas micro and small enterprises source wood from lower quality smallholder plantations. While the markets’ quality criteria are expected to tighten, capacity building is needed to improve smallholder wood quality to ensure the long-run tree-growing livelihood and competitiveness of small-scale producers in the markets.
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