Who is Sebastian Chuwa?

Sebastian Chuwa is a botanist whose home is in Moshi, Kibosho Rural District, Tanzania. He was born there in 1954 and educated in primary school in the area. His secondary education took place in Kenya. He has been working and continuing his education since 1973 in the areas of wildlife management and conservation.

He still lives in Moshi with his wife, Elizabeth, and four children. He has received a certificate in Wildlife Management from the College of African Wildlife Management Mweka - Moshi in 1974. He received an International Diploma in Botany from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England in 1990. He has studied herbarium techniques in Tanzania.

From 1974-1991, he worked in the field at the Ngongongoro Conservation Area at Kilimanjaro, leaving that employment as assistant conservator. He has also worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, and served as a botanist and guide for Wildlife Explorer Tanzania. He is currently working as botanist-in-charge of special projects, biodiversity surveys and mgingo conservation efforts.

He has attended various courses and seminars over the past 20 years in east Africa studying the management of wildlife and forest trees, aerial survey techniques, computer vegetation data management and related herbarium and botanical subjects. He has written numerous papers dealing with the plants and trees of east Africa and is currently involved in an extensive vegetation survey of Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Tanzania.

Mr. Chuwa was featured in the 1992 BBC-produced documentary about the African Blackwood tree called "The Tree of Music" which was aired in the United States on the Public Broadcasting System television series, Nature. His work in documenting the status and implementing conservation efforts regarding the mpingo, or blackwood tree, was covered in the film. He has been organizing grass-roots conservation efforts with local gardeners by getting them to volunteer space to grow and tend mpingo seedlings. He has also formed conservation clubs in local schools to heighten awareness about the environment.

Mr. Chuwa's background and obvious committment to his beloved mpingo qualifies him eminently to manage this African Blackwood Conservation Project in Moshi. His motivation is to do something about the state of the environment now, before a crisis state is reached. He feels that if we replant trees today and harvest mature trees as they are available, we can protect the local ecosystem, insure the vital role that mpingo plays in it be maintained, and still harvest mpingo as a source of wood for local and international trade.

Such a 'wise use' philosophy is obviously the key element in any approach to conservation of threatened species in today's world. The impact of humanity upon nature is significant and proper planning must be initiated if we are to have a balanced world ecosystem in the next century. Mr. Chuwa will do all the work in the field in this project and all he asks is for some minimal financial support to build a more focused and efficient conservation effort. His altruism is commendable and he deserves the support of everyone who directly or indirectly benefits from the special tree he is dedicated to preserve. Ornamental turners, knife manufacturers and woodwind instrument instrument makers are direct beneficiaries of the unique wood called mpingo. But in a broader sense, the whole world benefits from this tree. As one of the highest achievements of human creativity and culture, music is a universal language, and mpingo plays an irreplaceable role in its expression for all citizens of the planet.

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Last revised June 11, 1996.