Karonga District Council is grappling with a high rate of deforestation of the district’s natural cover following the invasion of its protected forests by Tanzanians for timber and charcoal making.
Karonga District Council chairperson Patrick Kishombe said this on Tuesday at the launch of the council’s tree planting season during which it intends to plant 650 000 trees.
Kishombe said the Tanzanians are taking advantage of Malawi’s weak forest regulations, saying the Tanzanians have found it cheaper to travel to Malawi for timber milling and transport the timber back to Tanzania than buy trees for the same exercise in their country.
He said this has proved costly as most of the trees in the district are depleted, thereby contributing to climate change-related disasters, including dry spells and floods.
“Unlike Malawi, Tanzania has strong laws for protecting trees. As a result, most of the Tanzanians are invading our forests for charcoal making and timber production,” said Kishombe.
He said the council is failing to deal with the challenge because the forestry department in the district is working on a tight budget and resources, including vehicles to use when enforcing laws that prohibit careless cutting down of trees.
“At council level, we are planning to come up with bylaws that would assist in arresting the situation,” added Kishombe.
This is not the first time for authorities to complain about Tanzanians invading forests in Malawi for timber. In 2010, government cancelled licences for timber harvesting in the Vipha Plantation, claiming that most of the licencees were Tanzanians who obtained them on Malawians’ backs.
The forestry season launch was organised by World Vision Malawi which is implementing an agro-forestry project in six districts, including Karonga, targeting 140 000 beneficiaries in total.
World Vision director of grants acquisition and management Kondwani Mwangala said the project empowers communities to have forests and protect and use them for economic empowerment through forest-based enterprises. n