Traditional Authority Malenga of Ntchisi has expressed concern over the wanton cutting down of trees in Kaphiriundika Forest Reserve which is part of Nkhotakota Game Reserve, saying the development can lead to desertification in the near future.
The chief said the increase in the trucks carrying logs of firewood from the forest reserve was worrisome.
He wondered why, while the trucks pass by the forest office at Ntchisi Boma daily, the culprits are not apprehended.
He also said the establishment of forest management committees was not helping as there was poor coordination between the committee and the district forest office.
“I am worried about how our forests are being destroyed before the eyes of forest officials at the district. Our forest will turn into a desert soon. Unfortunately, the trees are not being replaced and this might worsen the effects of climate change in our district,” Malenga said.
The traditional leader suggested that government should involve the communities in safeguarding the forests since the villagers are the ones to face the consequences of careless tree cutting.
He also called for strict measures in protecting the forest reserve.
Aubrey Palani, who spoke on behalf of Ntchisi District Forestry Officer, concurred with Chief Malenga, saying their office was equally concerned with the rate at which trees were being carelessly cut down in the forest reserves.
Palani said tree-cutting is a big problem in the district due to urbanisation and growing of flue-cured tobacco which requires a lot of firewood.
However, he refuted claims that some forest officials were not doing anything about the situation, saying that they conduct patrols around the forest to safeguard it from tree cutters, as the practice is illegal.
“Charcoal burning and cutting down of the trees is illegal and anyone found is arrested. That is why we confiscate bags of charcoal,” Palani said.
He said the community should not worry about the trucks that carry firewood, saying the trucks seen transporting firewood come from Kaombe Timber Plantations, whose main client, Alliance One Tobacco Company, had signed a memorandum of understanding to replace the trees that are being harvested.
“Currently, the company has planted trees on 250 hectares of land to replace those that are being felled,” said Palani.
Ntchisi has forest reserves such as Fumbati, Ndilasadzu, Kaombe and the main Ntchisi Forest, all of which are managed through the Improved Forest Management for Sustainable Livelihood Programme.