Out-growers in three villages – Makungu, Kising’a and Lukosi – answered the survey.
The New Forests Company: Social survey provided valuable feedback from tree out-growers
Is the company’s impact on your community more positive or negative? What is your family’s main source of income? Where do you plan to invest the money from the tree sales first?
These are some examples of questions that the New Forests Company (NFC), a forestry company and a Finnfund investee since 2014, asked out-growers in their neighbouring communities in Tanzania.
Sector: Sustainable forestry
Year of investment: 2014
Asking the stakeholder’s opinion directly – and anonymously
The survey was part of a pilot project initiated by Finnfund aiming to support its investees to better collect and analyse feedback and impact data from their stakeholders, which can, at the end of the day, provide valuable information for the development of their operations, policies, and processes. In addition, the survey can strengthen the relationship with important stakeholders such as workers, neighbouring communities, partners, and suppliers.
The survey was carried out with video survey technology developed by Work Ahead, a Finnish tech company, and it allows people to hear the question over video in their own local language – and answer 100% anonymously by pressing a visual icon on a device screen.
“This is an important initiative for Finnfund. We have actively been looking for new innovative ways to give voice to different stakeholder groups of our investee companies to better understand the different dimensions of impact our investees have on people’s lives. It has been valuable for NFC but for us as well to get impact data and feedback from their out-growers,” said Kaisa Alavuotunki, Director of Impact and Sustainability at Finnfund.
The New Forests Company was one of the two companies that joined the pilot at the very beginning.
Positive impact on people’s lives and the communities
NFC works closely with their neighbouring communities living around their three plantations in Iringa, Tanzania: Makungu, Kising’a, and Lukosi. In addition to providing much-needed jobs, the company buys trees from out-growers, and as part of their livelihood programmes, provides seedlings and training on tree planting as well as support to beekeeping, and establishing village loan and savings schemes. The survey enabled the company to ask out-growers directly their opinions about the company as well as collect data on their livelihood and how the cooperation with the company may have impacted it.
“We are grateful that Finnfund introduced and led this initiative. The project helped us to get objective data on our community engagements in order to do continuous improvements. It has also demonstrated the impacts of our projects as well as supported future audits and investor proposals,” said Candice Taylor, Chief Impact Officer at the New Forests Company.
A clear majority of respondents, 187 in total, said the company has positively impacted both the life of their family (69%) and their community (67%). From the options provided, the most valued positive effects were education (36%), improved health (26%), and improved housing (16%). Some people also highlighted effects on the environment (12%), respect for women (6%), and more money (4%). An impressive 90% of them said they feel pride over the tree planting.
People value the training and seedlings
When asked if the deal between you and the company fair, a clear majority (89%) said yes. A clear majority (88%) also feel that they get support from the company. The most valued services provided by NFC were training (51%) and seedlings (30%). Almost half of all respondents (49%) gave a five-star-rating, the maximum, for the support the company provides for tree farming. For most of the respondents (55%) the main target for the money received from the trees was their children’s education.
“There is a difference in our village between how we were living before the NFC operations and now in terms of planting trees and women empowerment. We are now good at taking care of trees and believe this will bring positive impact in the future,” said Susana Ngogo, out-grower in the Ngangange Village, in a separate feedback interview after the survey.
In addition to tree farming, the company has initiated projects to generate additional income. Among these, the respondents found the most beneficial short-term crops, such as fruit, cassava, groundnuts, and maize (52%), Village Savings and Loan Association (20%), and beekeeping (19%).
Again, it is valuable information for the company to know that a clear majority of the out-growers is very pleased with the cooperation and find it beneficial for their families and communities. It is also valuable to know that almost all respondents (92%) believed that their complaints or concerns about the company would get resolved. However, there is always room for improvement, too.
The cooperation has enhanced women’s empowerment
An impressive 97% of respondents saw at least partial progress in women’s empowerment. There was no significant difference between men and female respondents to this question.
However, when looking at some of the questions, the data reveals interesting differences between sexes. For instance, many men (39% – compared to women 16%) said they earned more because of the company, while almost half of women did not know if they did (47% – compared to men 27%). This result is likely due to women having less access to the household finances, which can be is useful for the company to consider when designing future communications and activities.
A survey can be used as an important tool to ask the opinions of women and other groups that are sometimes in the background or not vocal in community meetings and other gatherings. Of those who disclosed their gender (114 in total), 38% were women and 62% were men.
“Asking women for their opinion demonstrates to everyone that women’s opinions are important and can leave women feeling more empowered especially in areas where men are considered the heads of the households and in other settings, where only men may be asked for their opinion,” said Ilona Mooney, founder of Work Ahead.
“Survey illustrated the value of our relationship and support”
The survey was conducted in January 2021 by the company in six villages: Makungu, Mkalanga, Ukwega, Kising’a, Idete, and Ng’ang’ange. Each village was represented by a group of people that was consisted of people who had experience in cooperation with the company as well as other community members and village leaders. Prior to answering the survey, the team explained the principles, for instance, that it is voluntary, personal, and 100% anonymous.
In addition to questions about the cooperation with the company, the survey also included questions on the standard of living, such as “do you or your family have access to clean drinking water every day”, to better understand the general poverty level in the area. This also allows to collect comparative data for future surveys and impact studies.
“This survey has been useful in illustrating the value our out-growers place on the relationship with and support from NFC,” said Matt Merrick, the NFC Tanzania Country Manager.
“The data has also illustrated how valuable the training NFC provides is to our community and will therefore remain a major focus of the support provided. This training will also include education on how children’s ability to concentrate on schoolwork suffers when having to contribute significant periods of their time and effort in assisting with the work on the family’s farms,” he continued.
NFC sustainably manages 22,453 hectares of Forest Stewardship Council ™(FSCTM) certified forests in Tanzania and Uganda. In 2021, NFC Tanzania alone employed 96 people of whom 14 were women.
Interested to know more about these surveys? Watch a video Yalelo: Voices of the Employees – Piloting a video survey in Zambia – YouTube – and read another case story from Zambia Yalelo: Voices of the employees – piloting a video survey in Zambia – Finnfund
Anne Arvola, Senior Development Impact Adviser, firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 44 356 4590
Kaisa Alavuotunki, Director, Impact and Sustainability, email@example.com, +358 41 522 3693
Kirsi Pere, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 40 620 9767 (media contacts)
Some key results from the survey
97% of respondents saw at least partial progress in women’s empowerment.
92% believe that their complaints or concerns about the company would get resolved
89% think the deal between her/him and the company is fair
88% feel that they get support from the company
69% feel the company has positively impacted the life of their family
67% feel the company has positively impacted the life of their community
“I believe this will bring positive impact in the future”
After the survey, the NFC team interviewed some of the respondents in order to receive feedback both on the survey as well as to provide people a chance to give open feedback. These are some of the responses:
“NFC provides extension services to us, and we are now adapting to new methods of planting trees. They went further by introducing Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLAs) which we are now using to find other alternative income-generating activities while waiting (for) our trees to mature.” – Kalista Magoda (42 years), Out-grower, Ng’angange Village
“The company helped us a lot to improve the way we are growing trees for profit through different training sessions. Previously we planted more trees in the area thinking that we will get more profit, but now the NFC trained us on spacing, size of the hole, weeding, pruning, and fire prevention and fighting.” – Lazaro Stephano Lukosi (25 years), Kising’a Village Executive Officer & Out-grower
“The company helped us a lot in extension services, we are now good in planting and maintaining our woodlots. Two things that I would request are; NFC should establish a tree nursery in our village so that the out-growers will be able to collect seedlings right after he/she prepares the woodlot instead of waiting (for) the distribution schedule from the company. Also, to be assisted in finding a better market for our products as currently, we are selling our trees at low price.” – Henrick Boikipande Kikoti (54 years), Idete Village Chairperson & Out-grower
“There is a difference in our village between how we were living before the NFC operations and now in terms of planting trees and women empowerment. We are now good at taking care of trees and believe this will bring positive impact in the future.” – Susana Ngogo (41 years), Out-grower, Ngangange Village