Government has suspended timber harvesting in Chikangawa and other forests in the country to reduce increasing cases of deforestation mainly in government forest reserves.
Director of forestry in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources Clement Chilima confirmed the suspension in an interview on Wednesday.
“We are no longer giving out licenses to timber harvesters in Chikangawa because we want to protect the forest.
“Those who want to harvest timber need to make new applications and we have to prove that they have plots with trees before we give them licences. Apart from Raiply, we are not allowing any timber harvesting,” Chilima said.
He said only those who will acquire special licences will be allowed to harvest timber in Chikangawa.
The suspension which took effect in October runs up to April.
Data from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining shows that the country continues to lose its precious forest cover at 2.8 percent per year. In general, Malawi has lost her forest cover by over 40 percent between 1972 and 1990.
“The suspension was necessary because illegal harvesters of forest products and charcoal-makers are proving to be a huge headache and that is the reason government has suspended timber harvesting to reduce the challenge,” explained Chilima in an interview on the sidelines of the National Redd+Conference was held in Lilongwe this week.
The Redd+ is a United Nations strategy for climate change mitigation through reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.
However, portfolio manager for Resilience and Sustainable Growth at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Andrew Spezowka said like all development partners the Undp is concerned with the wanton cutting down of trees. But said there was need for government to consider charcoal-makers to be given an alternative source of income before banning all tree harvesting activities.
“Malawi is fast losing its forest cover and this is a huge concern. Much as we could love that charcoal-making should be banned we believe there should be alternative sources of income for those making charcoal and that charcoal production should be regulated,” said Spezowka.
Meanwhile, Chilima has said government has scaled up its fight against corrupt in his department.
“Even though corruption is difficult to prove we encourage those who have evidence to report any officer involved in corruption so that we can act accordingly,” he said.
On his part, chief director for environmental and climate change management Yanira Ntupanyama in a separate interview concurred with Chilima that corruption in the forestry department is a problem that needs to be dealt with decisively.
“Forestry officials always think that the communities are to blame, but we fail to play our part. Issues of corruption always come up even during parliamentary committee meetings and it is a problem we are grappling with,” said Mtupanyama. n