Lessons continue to be learnt 45 years after the first tree planting exercise was launched by first President late Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Tree planting has over the years mutated into a week, month and then finally season that ran from December through April.
The lessons emerged when Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo briefed the press today in Lilongwe. According to Tembo, there are plans to plant 60 million different species trees by April, 2021.
The move is inching towards 4.5 million hectares inline with Afri100 that targets 100 million hectares of ecosystem restoration in Africa under the Bonn Challenge Initiative.
However, issues of tree species management after planting season topped the list of questions from the press. It was argued very little is being done to ensure tree survival in most of the areas of the country.
But reacting to the concerns on minimal tree management, Tembo advanced an angle that the dynamics on issues of forest conservation and management have changed in recent years. This is due to population boom that is exerting pressure on resources due to high biomass energy demand.
“Top of the lessons learnt 45 years after the inception of the programme include the dawn of democracy that changed perception of community participation in self - help projects. Unlike in the past, where people would voluntarily take part in projects that will benefit themselves that isn’t the case now. People are demanding incentives to participate in development work including tree planting,” Tembo told scribes during the presser.
She however enlightened scribes that trees and forests support vast majority of our people through provision of timber, poles for construction, medicines, herbs and wild fruits and other non - timber forest products.
“We have degraded our landscapes through wanton cutting down of trees and over exploitation of natural resources due to over population. We are so densely populated, thereby causing damage and deforestation leading to forest and catchment degradation. This is resulting into drying of rivers, loss of forest cover, climate change, biodiversity loss including dwindling fish population,” explained Tembo adding that even certain fish species are getting extinct due to excess siltation of water bodies.
She cited for example how fragile Mulunguzi Dam on Zomba Mountain has become due to lack of cover. A development that is threatening its very survival to supply residents with clean water due to siltation in Zomba city.
Principal Forestry Officer, Tangu Tumeo brought the issue of ownership saying there is need for more citizen participation hence families need to begin to have their woodlots too.
The Minister unveiled plans to intensify grassroots participation with chiefs on the ground as part of collaborative forest management. She expressed gratitude to Press Trust, Vizala Rubber Estate, Ripple Africa, Root and Fruit part of the corporate world for the assistance rendered towards the mobilization of seedlings for the exercise.
Tembo announced that 2020-21 National Forestry Season will be officially launched on 16th December, 2020 by His Excellency, the State President, Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, at Tukombo Full Primary School in Nkhatabay District.