Meru/Usa forest plantation is located within Mount Meru forest reserve in Arumeru and Arusha districts, Arusha region. The forest lies between latitude 3º15’-3º18’ South and longitudes 36º41’-36º42’ East, about 20 km North of Arusha city. The forest is accessed by an all weather road branching at 5 - 10 km from the Moshi – Arusha - Nairobi highway, reaching the forest through its administration centre. Arusha city is a thriving centre linked by roads and air to local and international destinations. The Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) is about 45 km away from Arusha city.
The city is an important market for agriculture and forest produce with several processing industries, being situated at the edge of several National Parks, which includes Arusha, Serengeti, Manyara, Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). As such Arusha city located at the foot of mount Meru is one of the major tourism centers in Africa. Also, the famous Mount Kilimanjaro, the peak of Africa is just 120 km away. Meru/Usa Forest Plantation being on the outskirts of the city plays an important role in the form of provision of wood and non-wood forest products and services. Appendix 1 is a map showing the location of Meru/Usa Forest Plantation.
The Meru/Usa Forest Plantation is part of Meru Forest Reserve (26,000ha) which was gazzeted in 1920 by general notice No. 232. Between 1930’s-1940’s, trial plots were established in different parts of the country finding possibilities of replacing the natural forest with fast growing exotic species for commercial purposes. Meru Forest Reserve was gazetted with the purpose of protecting the natural forest for soil and water conservation along the upper and middle slopes of the mountain. The Plantations were established in order to raise fast growing species so as to supply both internal and external market with timber. The plantable area which was made available for this purpose is about 6,550ha. \
uring the establishment of the plantations “taungya” system was adopted. The licensed cultivations were allocated with a portion of the land/forest, which they felled and burnt. They were allowed to cultivate the given land for three years. The Forest Division then planted trees and squatters continued to raise their crops two years after planting. This system is now applied for second and third rotations.
Large scale planting of Cupressus lustanica and Pinus patula in the middle slopes of Mount Meru (1500-2200 m above sea level) commenced early in 1950’s to late 1970’s when much of the plantable area had been covered with these species, under ‘taungya’ system. The oldest conifer stands dates back to 1958, but some hardwood stands of Eucalyptus spp, Acacia melanoxylon and Olea capensis were established earlier.
188.8.131.52 Division of the Plantation
During that period the plantation was divided into six blocks to make the management of the plantation easier.
(i) Narok/Themi Block
The Narok block has a total area of 972.1ha. In 1978 the Forest Division allocated about 680ha to the then Division of Forestry of the University of Dar es salaam (now Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation of Sokoine University of Agriculture) for training purpose. The remaining area for Narok block was 292.1ha. Themi block has a total area of 431.7ha.
(ii) Olmotonyi/Kitakuu Block
The earliest cypress plantations planted by Germans were in Olmotonyi, but actual planting by the Forest Division started in 1924 with Cypress and Acacia. Between 1924 and 1934 planting was done in small scale and no planting was done until 1957 when Cypress was planted. In 1954 planting of Pines was initiated with Pinus patula, Pinus radiata. In 1957 planting was increased with Cypress, Pines and Eucalyptus totaling to 1049.4ha.
(iii) Nading’oro/Olkokola Blocks
By year 1974, 474.6ha had been planted in this block; mainly Cypress, Pines and Acacia.
(iv) Oldonyosambu Block
Planting in Oldonyosambu block started in 1955 for the purpose of consolidating the open glades along the forest reserve area/boundary. This was done with Cypress, Pines and Grevillea but on small scale until 1960. Planting was completed in 1974, with a total area of 2,031.1ha.
(v) Kilinga and Ngongongare Blocks
Cordia africana trial plots of 25ha were planted in 1958. Planting of softwoods Cypress and Pines started in 1970’s. Planting of Grevillea/Olea matrix stands in these blocks were initiated in 1970’s. Total area in these blocks is 832.6 ha.
(vi) Sakila/Ngurdoto Block
In Ngurdoto beat experimental plots were established in early 1960’s to study the performance of Olea capensis when planted with other species as nursing trees. Planting of Grevillea/olea matrix stands in this block started in late 1970’s mainly in Sakila. The block has a total area of 458.5ha.