Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Nancy Tembo has instructed stakeholders and traditional leaders to help in tracking, naming and shaming charcoal kingpins as one way of protecting forests in the country.
The minister was speaking on Wednesday after visiting charcoal production hotspots in Perekezi and Chimaliro forest reserves soon after engaging chiefs under M’mbelwa District Council in Mzimba.
According to Tembo, preliminary facts indicate that there are some top brass who instruct poor locals to take part in the production of charcoal at a low cost and the former transports to urban areas where they fetch higher prices.
She said: “We know there is more that goes on behind the scenes. Let us join hands and track those warlords behind this charcoal business and let their identities come in the open.
“This will help us to launch an investigation and have them taken to book and this is a journey we have to walk through together.”
The minister also asked traditional leaders to apply by-laws formulated by communities to protect forests in their areas.
Said Tembo: “It’s sad to see how the forests are being destroyed. People are cutting down trees without replacing them.
“Chiefs have the power to control their communities by enforcing laws. On its part, government has amended the Forestry Act and it is operational. Once one is found in possession of charcoal or firewood, their vehicles will be confiscated.”
She further disclosed that government has removed general receipt on forest products, saying it was weakening the laws and hindering the work of the Forestry Office.
In his remarks, Inkosi ya Makosi M’Mbelwa V thanked the minister for engaging the local leaders in the act of tracing charcoal warlords and promised total support.
He, however, asked the minister to consider strengthening local forest management structures by promoting forestry management by-laws as a means of empowering locals in the business of forest resource management.
Mzimba is one of the districts with a great natural resource base, hosting a large part of the country’s largest man-made forest, Viphya Plantations popularly known as Chikangawa Forest as well as Perekezi and Chimaliro forests.