Herbalists in the country have dared government to give them the mandate of protecting forests from plunderers, arguing they can perform better than even armed forest rangers that have been in use.
Currently, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has started deploying armed forest rangers in some of its game parks and wildlife reserves, in response to the increasing poaching and wanton cutting down of trees. Because some of the people plundering the natural resources are sometimes heavily armed and are sophisticated, the ministry has been hiring out Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers in some areas.
The herbalists stepped forward and offered their services during a day-long meeting they organized in Dedza on Saturday at which they engaged various stakeholders concerning the protecting of the country’s natural resources effectively.
Speaking at the meeting, Dedza herbalists’ advisor Group Village Hedman Ntabeni Chinyamula said herbalists are both angry and worried because of the deforestation the plunderers are causing, thereby destroying and eroding their source of medicines.
“We are very worried with the increased cutting down of trees in our forests, despite the government’s efforts to protect these trees. So, now, we are saying let us put ‘chambu’ (charms) in all forests across the nation, so that the forests are invisible to the plunderers or that the undeterred get stuck in the forests… and will be arrested and made to pay heavy fines,” the traditional leader declared.
Commenting on what his colleagues presented at the meeting in meeting, president of Traditional Healers’ Association of Malawi (THAM) Frank Manyowa said herbalists can use their charms to protect the forests, on which they rely for their medicine in their trade.
“As herbalists, we encourage the protection of forests because that is where we get our medicine. So, we believe that with the supernatural powers we posses, we can protect the forests much better.
“For instance, we can make the forests invisible to the plunders when they come to cut down trees. We can also punish such plunderers in several other ways, whereby they would dread entering the forests for their destructive mission. All this may sound like a tall claim and a laughing matter but, let me assure you, the stern protective measures are very possible. Or do-able,” he stated.
During the meeting, some of the herbalists challenged the government to allot an experimental forest to them, where they can use, and prove the effectiveness, of their special ‘charm offensive’.
In his comments on the matter, director of forests Clement Chilima said any initiative towards protecting forests in the country is welcome, hence the herbalists should write to the department, which would hold wider discussions on the way forward.
He said: “We are comfortable with any group of people protecting the forests. So, herbalists should come forward and we are willing to give them that mandate for as long as it protects our forests and that the protection measures are not criminal or illegal.
“Other communities in Ntchisi are protecting forests on their own and they have been successful, If herbalists are willing to do the same using whatever means, then its all well and good! But let me say they should not compare themselves with other groups.”