Republic of Malawi
By: Davies Munthali
The Department of Forestry has engaged communities in Likoma in the sustainable conservation of Makungwa Forest in the district.
Communities in Likoma recognize the need to work beyond protected Makungwa forest to sustain viable populations of tree species and forest wildlife. But ambitious plans to extend tree corridors beyond protected areas must consider the economic and political implications when people forage on trees, attack wildlife, or otherwise threaten forest security.
As such, to ensure sustainable development, conservation and utilisation of forestry resources for socio-economic growth and development of Malawi, Department of Forestry through its Forest Communication and Advisory Division (FCAD) on November 8, 2019 visited Likoma to appreciate Makungwa forest in readiness for the National Forest Season.
Local communities, living in or around the Makungwa forest, are often the key partners of the sustainable forest management practices since their subsistence economies and their welfare are not only highly dependent on Lake Malawi but also upon the Makungwa forest resources.
However, there is an increasing interest in strengthening and promoting different collaborative management systems in Likoma for Makungwa forestry practices. This is a response to society’s demand for conservation and sustainable development of resources through effective participation and partnership arrangements.
In an interview, Chairperson for Makungwa Forest Aston Kulimatenje hailed the department of forest for engaging the community in managing the forest acknowledging the importance of public participatory management for it is based on mutual trust, improved communication and co-operation among all people involved in process.
“This may contribute to sustainable forest management by increasing public awareness among the public, maximize the total benefits of forests, assure sharing of costs and benefits in an equitable way and, enhance the social acceptance of sustainable forest management,” he said.
In his remarks, Likoma District Forest Officer, Grant Kumwenda reckoned the variables with significant influence on the success of Makungwa forestry among which are tenure security, clear ownership, congruence between biophysical and socioeconomic boundaries of the resources, effective enforcement of rules and regulations, monitoring, sanctioning, strong leadership with capable local organization, expectation of benefits, common interests among community members, and local authority.
“These variables illustrate community–forest relationships, community ability to organize and continue collective activities, and protection of benefits, rights, and responsibilities in common resource management of Makungwa forest, effective enforcement of rules and regulations, monitoring, sanctioning, strong leadership with capable local organization, expectation of benefits, common interests among community members, and local authority,” he said.
Heading the FCAD delegates to Likoma, Mathew Katoleza encouraged the Makungwa forest committee and community at large to co-challenge with government many factors leading to forest cover loss amongst which are high population growth, brick burning, urbanization and inadequate budgetary support from corporate world so as to reclaim the degraded area at the island.
Katoleza said the government has a robust policy and legal framework to justify and underscore the fact that Malawi has the necessary policy and legal instruments in place for effective forest and tree management.
“As government, efforts are evident through the existence of a robust policy and legal framework, strategies, programmes and guidelines and many interventions done by both government, private sector and civil society, to make sure that all identified issues impinging on sustainable forest and tree management in Malawi are tackled,” said Katoleza.
As the national tree planting season is approaching, the Government of Malawi through the Department of Forestry is advocating for urgent need to bring together representatives from regional organizations, government, civil society, private sector and the citizenry, with the aim of positively utilizing tree planting season so that Malawi can respond to the current and future impacts of trees and forest reliance affecting livelihoods and the country’s landscape.