Sao Hill Forest Plantation is in Mufindi District, Iringa Region within the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Sao Hill Forest Plantation, Division I (Irundi) as part of Sao Hill Forest plantation is located in Mufindi District in Iringa Region (JB 627, Sao Hill Forest Plantations Management map) (Appendix X). The plantation is located around Irundi Hill, bordered along Mufindi circle road on the North East by Mtili Village, on the East by Sawala village, on the South by Mninga and at a distance North of the Mninga village away from the Mufindi circle road by Kihanga village which is adjacent to our Irunda Forest Reserve Plantations, on the South West along the Mufindi circle road by Igowole and Nzivi villages.
On the West, the little Ruaha River makes the boundary. This little Ruaha tributary, which makes the boundary, starts in the Lutheran lake at Ngwazi near Nzivi and goes Northwards first and when it joins the little Ruaha river plain goes eastwards Makalala Mission.
Sao Hill Forest Plantation, Division I (Irundi) is about 25 km from Mafinga town and 120 km from Iringa Municipality on the Iringa – Mbeya road (Tanzam Highway) and 13 Km from sao hill head quarter. The bulk of the land is located within the Mufindi circle road, Tanzam Highway and the little Ruaha River. The Division lies within 728000E- 90000N and 760000- 9050000 N grid lines.
1.2. HISTORY AND PROGRESS OF THE PLANTATION
Division 1 is one of the four Divisions or blocks, which form the Sao Hill Forest Plantation and has the oldest timber stands. Most of her plantations are located around Irundi Hill, which is 2,000 m above sea level also regarded as the highest point in the Division.
The Division is divided into six reserves (ranges) with different sizes. These includes Irundi, Ruaha, Nzivi, Mninga, Msiwasi and Gulusilo. In addition, it is one of the Divisions with tree nursery able of raising 6 millions seedlings per year. This nursery supply seedlings for other three Divisions except Division 4.
The first softwoods were introduced as trial plots at Kigogo (Mninga range) arboretum in 1939. During 1950`s small plantations were started at Msiwasi, Irunda and Kigogo Forest Reserves. Expansion of some softwood species to other areas like Sao Hill, Nzivi and Gulusilo were initiated during 1960`s. However, large scale afforestation at the present Sao Hill Forest plantation commenced in 1970`s under the sponsorship of the Work Bank.
By the year 1988, all Division’s productive area had already been planted with trees. The Division was too large to be managed from 1 office and it was splitted into two Division 1 and 2. The former two sub divisions were upgraded to full divisions. Division 1 was sub division 1 and retained her former offices at Irundi.
1.2.2 Division of the Plantation
During that period the plantation was divided into six blocks to make the management of the plantation easier.
The Gulusilo block has a total area of 2,936.16ha. The block has two major species which are Eucalyptus and pine species where by pine species are the dorminant.
The Irundi block has a total area of 2,078.78 ha. The block has two major species which are Pinus patula and pine pinus Elliotee where by pine patula species are the dorminant. On the other hand,Irundi block has the nursery with the capacity of raising six millions seedlings.
The Mninga block has a total area of 409.48ha. The block has two major species which are Eucalyptus and pine species where by pine species are the dorminant.
The Msiwasi block has a total area of 535.09ha. The block has three major species which are Eucalyptus, Cupressus lustanica, and pine patula in which Pinus patula species are the dorminant.
The Ruaha block has a total area of 2,913.55ha. The block has one major species type which is pine species.
The Nzivi block has a total area of 3955.94ha. The block has two major species which are Pinus patula and pine pinus Elliotee where by pine patula species are the dorminant.
1.2.2 Legal Status and Ownership
The Forest and the land are owned by the Tanzania Government and were gazetted under government notice number 152 and 113 (Appendix XI), on the JB map 1928 Sao Hill Forest Plantation Management map (Appendix X). Kigogo Forest Reserve, which is a catchment forest with a total area of 3,600 ha of land, has been administered by Division 1 Division one forest plantation was owned by Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) but now is under the ownership of Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) which was established by the Government Notice No. 269 of 30th July 2010.
The total area for Sao Hill Forest Plantation, Division I (Irundi) is 17,140.13 Ha. The allocation of land area is as follows:-
- Planted area: 12,829 ha
- Natural vegetation: 3600.00ha
- Other Uses: 711.13 ha.
However, total planted area is divided into six ranges as follows; Gulusilo (2936.160, Irundi (2078.78), Mninga(409.48), Msiwasi (535.09), Ruaha (2913.55),and Nzivi (3955.94ha). on top of that, 6660.12 ha are planted with P.patula, 130.6 ha P. elliottii, 81.51 ha Cuppressus lustanica , 28.62 ha P.caribaea ,1311.45 ha Eucalyptus spp. Kigogo Forest Reserve, which is a catchment forest with a total area of 3,600 ha of land, has been administered by Division 1
1.3.2. Topography and hydrology
The topography is rolling grassland with average altitude of 1,950m a.s.l on the crests and falling down to 1,935 m. in Ruaha flat-bottomed valleys. The highest area is Irundi Hill, which is about 2,000 m above sea level. Some of the bottomed valleys are seasonal swamps and some like the Ruaha valley in which little Ruaha is flowing is a broad marshy valley. The Itufilo valley is marshy and riverbanks are steep.
1.3.3. Geology and Soils
Rock outcrop are only evident around Irundi Hills. The soils are so deep, lateritic and have poor drainage. They range in colour from dark to reddish brown. Soil ph ranges from 4.4. to 5.4. There are various soil types like sand clay loam, sand loam on river valleys, gravel 0- 60 cm deep on up hills, sandy clay adjacent to Ruaha course, humus rich soils ( dark brown to chocolate brown soils) dominate the Mninga and Msiwasi ranges.
The type of natural vegetation is normally determined by the amount of rainfall received in the area.The predominant vegetation is grassland with trees widely scattered singly and in clumps. These in clumps are found mainly around bushes, anthills and valleys. The main species include Erythrina, Parinari, Cussonia, Apodytes and Albizia.
There are small patches of Brachystegia wood land. These can be found in Gulusilo range and Tita within Pine plantations, as we do not clear them. As completely woody vegetation is sparse and light and presented a small clearing problem during land preparation.
1.3.5. Biodiversity Potentials
The plantation area is rich in biodiversity especially in the river valleys. These sites have different life forms of flora and fauna (lower and higher). There are different types of birds, insects, and mammals such as rodents, fish and monkeys.
1.3.6. Special feature and Sites
The special features includes;
- Kigogo Forest Reserve, which is a natural forest.
- Oldest stands
- Irundi Hill
- Ngwazi, Kihanga, Nzivi and Lutheran man made damps
- Ngwazi air strip
- Patches of natural forests within the plantation, which act as habitat of other living things.