One of Malawi’s highly prized natural assets Mulanje Mountain is a resource under siege.
Over the years, the existence of Africa’s third biggest mountain which is home to the unique Mulanje cedar and other species of vegetation and a varied range of animals, has come under threat due to unfavourable human activity.
The mountain is faced with serious challenges of wanton cutting down of trees as traders seek to fill their larger-than-life demands for their timber business within the region and beyond.
Some settlers close to the mountain have also encroached on it and some of their activities such as farming up the mountain, fondly called Island in The Sky, have not been ideal for the flourishment of the flora and fauna.
Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) environmental education and communication officer Kondwani Chamwala says if the trend continues without being checked, it will have a detrimental effect to both people from Mulanje and a far.
“This natural environment is a point of power generation and a steady water resource. And as it stands the mountain remains one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. Sadly all that is under a serious threat,” he said.
MMCT, alongside other like-minded stakeholders have over the years invested in creating awareness on the danger that the mountain is in. And this year the trust engaged an extra gear when they engaged afro-jazz artist Lawi as ambassador of Mulanje Mountain.
Chamwala said his role was to become the voice of the mountain. He said they want him to amplify messages about conserving the mountain using his art and profile.
He said: “If you follow Lawi’s music you will appreciate the recognition he gives to natural creations through both his narratives and instrumentation. He is a believer in the natural environment and believes he can play a role in its conservation as well.”
And the artist has indeed maintained close connection with nature as displayed in some of his songs such as Timalira from his album Sunset In The Sky in which the natural sound effects of water flows, animal sounds and trees being blown by winds come out clearly.
In an earlier interview, Lawi said ideally the protection of the mountain was supposed to be the responsibility of every Malawian. He said Mulanje Mountain has its own natural voice which is huge already.
“We as humans have taken more than we should from the mountain. Now there is need for one of us to speak to fellow humans to bring an understanding that we have messed up and we have to stop it right now,” said Lawi.
Under his ambassadorship, he is set to champion a number of initiatives like the three-day mountain hike which will see the artist lead a team to the peak, Sapitwa.
The hike has been scheduled for August 27 to 29 where people are expected to spend two nights on the mountain, according to Lawi’s local manager Emmanuel Maliro.
He said: “For us the mountain symbolises peace and tranquility. For any creative mind, that environment provides a good space for the creative juices to flow. We, therefore, feel more than obliged to take up such a responsibility.”
Maliro said they have engaged several strategies to help boost the profile of the hike including reaching out to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife who have committed to take part.
He also said they want to bring on board fellow artists and celebrities as well as captains of the corporate world to solidify their resolve.
“People who are behind this timber business are big people with names. These are the people who are behind the depletion of this natural resource. They have connections, money, influence and they know how to navigate the security systems in place.
“In the same vein, we want to bring to the understanding of other equally big names about the problem that is at hand. They can help us counter the threat at that upper level,” he said.
The artist has partnered other tourist agencies such as Adventures, Eagles Eye Malawi, Team Adventure, Paulendo Adventures, Hikers Alliance, Travel With Mervis and Makawa Fitness Trainer.