Malawi government has established the Forest Development Fund (FDF) to help in the management of forests, especially the endangered Viphya Plantation, from wild fires, it has been learnt.
Speaking at the launch of a tree planting campaign organised by Youth and Society at Nthungwa in Viphya Plantation in Chikangawa on Monday, Malawi’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management Jeniffer Chilunga said poor management of forests and the ministry’s lack of resources are major setbacks in protecting forests from fires.
Said Chilunga: “The fund was established last year through revenue from exported timber. Through this fund, we have bought four [vehicles] to help in fire extinguishing, and we will come up with contractors who will work with communities to protect forests from fires.”
She said the contractors will be empowered in community policing to ensure that people do not burn trees.
The minister said through the fund, they planted 1 600 trees last year and that they are expected to plant 3 000 more this year.
“We hope to continue with this trend every year. We believe that after 10 years or so, the plantation will be fully rehabilitated,” she said.
She, however, said the impact of the fund cannot be noticed at present as it was just established last year.
The minister urged Malawians to take part in management of the forests, saying some locals get licences to ply their trade in the plantation on behalf of foreigners, thereby draining forex reserves.
“We want to promote local investors. As such, a directive has been [made]to bar foreigners from plying their trade in the forest,” she said.
Member of Parliament for Nkhata Bay West Grace Chiume said forest fires are mostly caused by irate employees who are paid meagre salaries. As such, she argued the welfare of such workers should be put at heart if forest fires are to be dealt with.
Last year in October, about 70 hectares of trees in the plantation were destroyed due to fierce and uncontrollable fires.