The government is the sole regulator of the timber value chain. However, regulations are implemented differently at the sub-national level.
All value chain actors operate under the same regulatory framework despite their many differences.
Some regulations are perceived as being cumbersome by the value chain actors.
Although regulations affect all actors of the value chain, tree growers are the most-affected category.
Government revenue is lost due to some strategies adopted by the chain actors to maximize their incomes.
In recent years, non-industrial private forestry (NIPF) for timber production has gained economic importance in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Access to benefits accrued from NIPF represents an opportunity for poverty alleviation. Access and distribution of the benefits are affected by governance, which is an important aspect in this regard. This paper focuses on state regulations, which in the context of Africa and Tanzania in particular, have received scant attention in the value chain studies. The paper seeks to respond to three main questions: i) How is the timber value chain regulated? (ii) What strategies do the value chain actors use to gain access to benefits? And iii) how do regulations affect the incomes of the chain actors? Data for the study were collected from Njombe District through documentary analysis, focus group discussions, observations and in-depth interviews with key informants. The study findings show that while the government is the sole regulator of the chain, regulations are implemented differently at the sub-national level. Industrial and non-industrial private forestry are placed under the same regulatory framework despite their many differences. This has partly resulted in high transaction costs, which are unaffordable by the majority of actors in the NIPF value chain. Despite strict regulations and many taxes paid, the actors adopt different strategies such as using locally available materials and capitalizing on social networks in maximizing their incomes from the timber business. The regulations affect incomes of all actors, however, tree growers are the most-affected category. This is because tree growers possess limited capital to engage in high value chain activities and strict regulations aggravate the situation. The paper concludes that the contribution of non-industrial private forestry to poverty alleviation is stifled by cumbersome district and state regulations that limit actors' access to profitable markets.