This century the
forest cover in the East Usambaras have been much
reduced. During the early part of the century
forests were cut to establish coffee plantations
and later extensive tea estates.
Since the 1970s
deforestation has been largely caused by human
needs for agricultural land. With the exception
of steep escarpments, all areas outside forest
reserves are now cultivated.
The transition from forest to a deforested
landscape is gradual. At first farmers do not cut
all large trees and cultivate amidst the
remaining canopy trees (see top photograph). These
eventually die or are cut down resulting in a
largely treeless landscape (middle photograph).
Due to the steepness of slopes much soil
erosion occurs and there is a need for contour
planting and terracing to remedy this problem.
After the cessation of industrial logging in 1987, pit-sawing remained an important activity until the early 1990s. Following pit-sawing activities (typical example illustrated bottom right) the undergrowth would often be cleared to establish a cash crop of
cardamom. After a few years, the soil being exhausted, the area would then be used to grow maize and later cassava.