This study aimed at investigating challenges and prospects in the management of Village Land Forest Reserves (VLFRs) in Mabadaga, Mbuyuni and Itamboleo villages, administratively in Mbarali district, southern Tanzania. Data were collected through questionnaire surveys, in-depth key informant interviews, physical field visits and documentary reviews. A total of 44 subjects were involved in the study. SPSS, Microsoft Excel and content analysis were utilized in analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. The research findings indicate that inadequate communities’ economic capacity building which accelerated dependence over forest, alongside the passive and derisory communities’ participation and involvement in VLFRs management have led to continued forest degradation and deforestation. The findings indicate that an average of 2.04 ha/year of forest is lost through firewood, charcoal and upland farm expansion from 2009 to 2011. As for a win-win situation, the study recommends improvement of relationship within and between communities and Village Natural Resource Committees (VNRC) and Village Council (VC); enhancement of coordination between and within VLFRs stakeholders – the District government, community, NGOs and sectors such as agriculture, energy, forestry and water. However, prospects and fate of VLFRs in the Mabadaga, Mbuyuni and Itamboleo villages can be promising when FMPs are focused and supported by the approved bylaws; VNRCs operating framework participate and involves communities and communities are capacitated in agriculture and energy so as to reduce the overdependence over forests.
Keywords: Village Land Forest Reserve, Forest, sustainability, Community Based Forest Reserves, community Based Forest, management, Usangu plains.