Malawi Government, through the Department of Forestry, has built craft centres in different parts of the country.
The department’s deputy director Titus Zulu said the project is one way of organising people involved in forest-based enterprises (FBEs) so that they collectively bargain for better prices.
FBEs are businesses such as mat making, bee-keeping, pottery, basket weaving and others whose raw materials come from forests.
“We want people involved in mat making, basket weaving and others to use these centres for making, storing and marketing their products. In so doing, they can bargain collectively and get better returns from their sweat,” said Zulu.
The centres were built under the just ended Improved Forest Management for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme (IFMSLP).
IFMSL—whose aim was to rope in local communities in the management of state and customary forests—was being implemented in Rumphi, Mzimba, Karonga and Chitipa in the North; Ntchisi, Dedza, Kasungu and Ntcheu in the Centre. In the South, IFMSLP targeted Zomba, Machinga, Chikhwawa and Nsanje.
In Karonga, for example, the department built Mlare Craft Centre and communities are excited with the project.
Mlare Mat Weaving Association chairperson Idah Ngwira thanked the department for the structure.
“In the past, we failed to make good income from our mats because we did not have organised markets for our products,” she said.
Karonga district forest officer Fidelis Nthenda said shared management of forests has reduced bush fires and wanton cutting down of trees in the district.
“Communities now see the importance of conserving the environment as they are direct beneficiaries of forest resources,” said Nthenda.