DoF for Forestry Act Amendment 2020 Enforcement

By: Davies Munthali

 Forestry Policy forbids the production of charcoal without a valid licence

As Malawi looks to energy alternatives for cooking and heating, the growing demand for charcoal is putting more pressure on already shrinking forests.

It is a 'gospel truth' that forests play a critical role in sustaining the health and prosperity of our nation- indeed our very survival.

However, although this may seem quite obvious, it is imperative to remind ourselves every day, how exactly our lifestyle and norms are harming the environment. Cooking, heating, and roasting are just but a few activities that are conducted on a daily basis, numerous times, and by a larger population, mainly by using charcoal.

So, why exactly is this charcoal business being a hard-fought battle by the uprising-wide population of environmental activists? The answer is that it causes enormous environmental damage, some of which are irreversible and most will lead to serious consequential impacts on the generation to come.

It is for such development that 2020’s Forestry Amendment Act was developed to increase transparency and accountability in the forestry sector, improve charcoal regulation, enhance opportunities for public-private partnerships, and provide forestry officers with greater powers of law enforcement.

Acting Director of Forestry Mr Francis Chilimampunga reveals that by enacting the amendment, the government acknowledges forest crimes as serious offences.

“This is reflected in the new penalty provisions, which enable fines up to K10 Million and custodial sentences of up to 20 years,” said Mr Chilimampunga.

He further appreciates that strong penalties reflect justice for both people and the environment.
Here are the Forestry Act Amendment 2020 key revisions:

1. Improved Regulation of Charcoal
• Charcoal is now defined as ‘forest produce’
• Production, distribution, sale, possession, import and export of charcoal is not permitted without a charcoal licence.
• Permits can only be granted by the department of forestry, and only in conjunction with a DoF- approved reforestation or forest management plan.

2. Increased Transparency and Accountability
The mandate of the Department of Forestry has been increased to include:
• The existence of information systems that provide the public with easy access to forestry-related information and data.
• Increased collaboration and participation of stakeholders in forestry-related decision-making processes.

3. Strengthened Law Enforcement and Provision of Penalties.
• Forest officers can carry firearms in the line of duty 
• Penalties have been increased for a range of offences including deforestation and encroachment, the setting of fires, bribery and corruption, obstruction of justice, falsification of documents, and the trade and movement of illegal charcoal or round wood.
• Forest crimes now carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

In this country, charcoal production, transportation, selling, and consumption are not illegal. Those who think so should read again Malawi’s Forestry Policy and the latest National Charcoal Strategy, 2017–2027.  The Forestry Policy only forbids the production of charcoal without a valid licence from the Malawi Government’s Director of Forestry.