Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka has told Parliament that government will continue using Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers in the protection of forest and wildlife reserves in the country.
Msaka said the soldiers have proven to be a deterrent to desperate charcoal burners and poachers bent on using lethal weapons to protect their illegal businesses against other less equipped law enforcers.
The minister said this on Friday in response to a question from Mzimba Hora Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher Ngwira (People’s Party-PP) who wanted to know if the ministry has any policy to empower communities so that they stop destroying natural resources such as trees for charcoal burning.
In a follow-up question, Lilongwe Msozi South MP Vitus Dzoole-Mwale (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said the use of the soldiers was extreme. He proposed that they should be replaced by a cadre of community policing personnel to be trained and paid wages, even in the face of increasing charcoal selling markets in urban centres.
In response, Msaka said the soldiers were a strategic answer to the problem because community policing volunteers are generally under-armed and ill-trained to repel charcoal burners and poachers who are prepared to let axes and pangas fly in protecting their illegal businesses.
On Dzoole’s plea that the charcoal business in cities and towns be stopped immediately, Msaka felt such action could cause other problems.
To Ngwira’s concerns that some of his constituents destroy trees not only when cooking, but also each time they decide to open up a virgin land, Msaka said government is set to counteract this by promoting the use of fuel-efficient stoves, which use 40 percent of fuel wood, civic educating the people and banning the use of burnt bricks.