Restoration of Viphya plantation will forever be a dream unless government sticks to the plantation calendar and boosts capacity in forest management, stakeholders have warned.
Speaking in an interview on Monday, Viphya Plantation Rehabilitation Association president Enoch Soko said if government observed the plantation calendar, there would be no forest fires.
He said government misses out on most calendar activities, starting from land preparation, planting and weeding due to financial problems. Land preparation is supposed to be done in August, but is done in November.
The calendar also provides that weeding be done twice, but government only weeds once a year and the weeding is not done on time due to lack of funding.
Said Soko: “Weeding is supposed to be done when the weeds are still green and fresh so that the weeds rot by the dry season when bushfires are common.”
Timber Millers Cooperatives Union chairperson Paul Nthambazale said government does not have the capacity to control bushfires.
He said there is need for more officers and fire engines.
Viphya Plantation acting manager Custom Nyirenda said the plantation has firefighting vehicles, but they are faulty. He said the vehicles do not discharge water beyond 50 metres making it difficult to combat fires.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining spokesperson Sangwani Phiri said funds are a challenge. He said government finances several activities and it is difficult for it to meet all needs.
He said government is looking into the possibility of having special contracts for fighting bushfires so that stakeholders in the forest can fight bushfires. n