Malawi’s Forestry Act is probably the weakest in the world and urgently needs to be reviewed if the destruction of the country’s already dwindling forests is to be effectively halted.
Chitipa South parliamentarian Werani Chilenga (People’s Party-PP), who is also chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, said this in Parliament last Thursday when winding up debate on a report his committee had tabled in the House late last year.
The report hinged on investigations, findings and recommendations on why the country’s natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate.
Among other things, the report faulted some greedy politicians and businesspersons who have crippled forestry management by not paying fees and by indulging in illegal business of exporting wood and other trophies.
Chilenga said the Forestry Act is very old and has negligible fines for those caught plundering protected forests and other natural resources.
He added that although his committee has pushed for a Forestry Policy, which would give it teeth, the document has not been approved by Cabinet and is merely gathering dust.
“So, we have been wondering that if the policy is taking that long, how long is it going to take for the Forestry Act to come out? And by then, shall we still have these forests?” asked Chilenga.
He expressed worry that the report, which named some Cabinet ministers and members in the House as suspected culprits, has been virtually ignored by government authorities.
Ntchisi North member Boniface Kadzamira (independent), reiterated the need for Malawians to consider introducing the growing of industrial hemp as a way of enabling people to fetch money.
“It is a suggestion I have made and it is up to country to take it or not. But this is being done elsewhere in the world,” he said.
Nkhata Bay South parliamentarian Emily Phiri (PP) said people should be encouraged to grow fruit trees as part of the nation’s re-afforestation programme.