It was a job well done. I hope it will generate public discussion on the way the public and the government have mishandled the national asset. Hopefully, out of such discussions, relevant action will follow.
The pathetic situation of Chikangawa touches my heart as a Malawian, an economist and a man from Mzimba.
Chikangawa reafforestation started before 1950 by the British Colonial Office.
When the Labour Party won a general election in 1945, it embarked on a policy of greater State participation in the economies of both Britain and its colonies.
In Britain, it nationalised private corporations and in the colonies, it established State enterprises using a parastatal called Colonial Development Corporation (CDC).
The main enterprise of CDC was a groundnut scheme in southern Tanzania.
In Malawi, it established a tung oil industry in the northern part of Mzimba, near a stream called Mzuzu. That was the beginning of the city of Mzuzu. CDC also operated estates in Kasungu.
If anyone must be credited for the launch of Viphya Plantation, then it must be Sir Geoffrey Colby, the governor who upon arrival from Nigeria was appalled at the economic backwardness of Nyasaland and he initiated several development schemes with the approval of the colonial office.
In 1950, I was working as a clerk in the Public Works Department at Mzimba Boma when trees were being planted in Chikangawa.
Twice, I accompanied Works supervisor Mr Fred Horton and deputy provincial engineer Mr Cox on their visits to Chikangawa where, among other duties, they paid labourers their wages.
I was an interpreter and I remember seeing vast landscapes dotted with seedlings.
It is no use here repeating the lamentation and criticism already heightened by Kondwani.
What I can only say is: The destruction of Chikangawa takes Mzimba back to poverty that was there during the colonial days.
Lacking the climate and the ecology to attract cash crop growers, Mzimba had one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country.
Paramount Chief MÃ¢â‚¬â„¢mbelwa II actively cooperated in the launch of the Chikangawa Reafforestation Scheme by persuading his people to go elsewhere. He wanted his district to have a taste of development.
I would advise his grandson MÃ¢â‚¬â„¢mbelwa IV to take personal interest in the vandalism going on in Chikangawa and see what the district development council and MÃ¢â‚¬â„¢mbelwa Council could do to help.
If one reason must be given why Malawi despite having rich natural resources is developing at a snailÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pace, I would say we are not organised to manage success. There is too much neglect of duty and passing the buck. Everyone is trying to blame the other for ruining Chikangawa. Shame!
It was the government that established the scheme because no private firm would do that. Business people are after quick profits. It is unreasonable for anyone, including the government to assume that the private entrepreneurs to whom it gives the harvesting licences would care much about replanting the trees.
They ask: Will the replaced trees belong to us? If not, why should we invest in them? Self-interest and selfishness are cousins.
Wherever responsibility is assigned to many people, no one assumes it. The government must assume full responsibility of replanting and protecting the trees.
How can guards be denied equipment when the plantation generates so much income for the government?
Surely, Chikangawa is capable of paying its way. Instead of directing the clients, including Raiply to do replanting, the government should impose a replanting tax on them for the number of trees they fell. This is the money that can be used to hire labourers to replant the trees.
In 2005, the Government of India, according to Duncan Green in his book From Poverty to Power, enacted a law titled Ã¢â‚¬ËœNational Rural Employment Guarantee ActÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ whereby the government is obliged to provide 100 days of employment to people living below the poverty line. They are engaged in public works.
This method could be adopted in replanting trees in Chikangawa. The sum collected as a tax for replanting could be used to hire casual labour. The sooner this is started, the better.