The Nkhata Bay First Grade Magistrateâ€™s Court in northern Malawi has fined five people K50 000 (about $167) each or in default to serve a 12-month jail term for cultivating in Kandoli Forest Reserve.
The court last week heard that Leonard Longwe (41), Prince Muwila (32), James Zimba (28), Frazer Zamangwe (37) and Madede Munthali (70), were cultivating cassava and bananas in the protected forest.
Communities around the forest reserve agreed to move out of the forest by August 31 2011, but the five continued cultivating there.
The five men denied the charge, but the police paraded witnesses that testified against them and were consequently convicted.
In mitigation, the five asked the court to be lenient, saying they have family obligations.
Police prosecutor Evance Kamtukule asked the court to mete out a reasonable sentence to deter would-be-encroachers.
In his ruling, first grade magistrate Sophie Chimaliro agreed with the State and fined the five.
Chimaliro also ordered the five not to visit the forest again and that the remaining crops should be uprooted or harvested.
Zimba and Munthali paid the fine soon after the ruling.
All the five come from Dungwe Village in the area of Traditional Authority Timbiri in the district.â€”Mana