Malawi needs to plant about 125 million trees each year at a survival rate of 100 percent if trees that have been cut are to be replaced, the Department of Forestry says.
Currently, the survival rate of trees in the country is at 60 percent, which means that the number of trees being cut is more than those being planted.
Deputy director of forestry, Nyuma Mughogho, said since more trees are being cut than replanted, it is difficult to replace all the trees that are cut.
She, however, said at the rate of tree survival, it is best to take care of natural trees that regenerate.
“The survival rate is low and there is need to protect naturally regenerating trees. If areas with these trees are left without being cut, they grow back. So, there is need to protect natural trees,” said Mughogho.
She observed that charcoal burning and expansion of land for agriculture remains the main activity that is causing deforestation.
“Charcoal production and agricultural expansion are the main activities that are causing deforestation. The underlying cause of charcoal production is lack of alternative sources of energy. As long as there is no reliable, affordable and readily available source of energy, charcoal will still be produced,” she said.
According to Mughogho, poverty also contributes to the problem as people cannot afford to use electricity or buy electrical equipment such as cooking stoves. Meanwhile, we need to minimise the use of charcoal and firewood by using fuel-efficient stoves and use of available alternative sources such as gas and electricity,” she said.
Mughogho has since asked all sectors to work together to solve this problem.
Currently, the department is confiscating illegally procured charcoal, and sometimes culprits have been arrested.
Meanwhile, the department has intensified tree caring in order to improve the survival rate now that and the country is heading for the dry season.
“We have extension workers all over the country. The extension workers are advising tree planters to weed their trees to protect them from fires and animals.
“Government and other organisations have sometimes given incentives for tree planting and management, for instance the Local Development Fund (LDF) implements Forestry Programmes under cash for work programmes,” added Mughogho.
However, she was quick to say that sometimes the problem is that people are involved in other agricultural activities otherwise they are encouraged to do their best to protect trees.
The country planted about 5.5 million tree seedlings in the 2012/13 tree planting season.