Encroachment is the biggest problem hampering Raiply Malawi Limited, wood products’ manufacturers, from replanting trees on their plantation on Mulanje Mountain.
The company’s Limbe factory has been felling trees and replanting them, but officials say villagers encroach on the Nanchidwa Plantation on the south-eastern part of the mountain.
The company’s forestry manager for the South, Ranjit Singh, says replanting is their primary goal, but some villagers thwart the efforts.
“They encroach and cultivate areas where we fell trees. That makes our work difficult since we divided the plantation into 20 sections. We harvest one plantation every year, and then replant it,” says Singh.
According to the company’s plantation officer Rodgers Chidothe, apart from encroachment, bush fires and charcoal burning are other activities hampering their efforts.
“Although this is the case, we are doing all we can to replant. Apart from pine and bluegum trees, we are also planting other species such as mibawa along the river for water and soil conservation,” he says.
A forestry official in the area, Benedict Masauli, explains that they go out to educate villagers on the dangers of wanton cutting down of replanted trees.
Raiply general manager Swastik Shetty says the company was on the verge of collapse when International Timbers Group (ITG) pulled out in 2004.
“Almost 450 people would have lost their jobs, but today, we have about 650 employees. Knowing that trees are our major resource, our target is to plant two seedlings for every tree that we cut down,” says Shetty.
During the launch of the National Tree Planting Season on December 15 2012, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jennifer Chilunga said deforestation in Malawi is currently at 2.8 percent, which she described as worrisome.
The tree planting season runs from December 15 2012 to April 2013 under the theme ‘Protect and plant trees on bare hills and riverines’. This season, the country is expected to plant about 60 million trees.