Heavy encroachment in Matandwe Forest Reserve in Nsanje has forced the forestry department to engage local communities in co-managing the reserve.
Communities from six Group Village Headmen surrounding the reserve have signed an agreement with the forestry department called ‘Forest Reserve Management Plan’ as an empowering tool for the management of the reserve.
“The agreement encourages ownership amongst the communities over the forest reserve. The department is empowering the communities surrounding Matandwe to take care of the resources and use them responsibly,” said Cecilia Chauluka, Regional Forestry Officer for the South.
Chauluka said communities around the forest were lacking information on how best they can benefit from the reserve by not depleting the scarce valuable animals and plant species found in the reserve.
“Matandwe has treasured resources which if taken care of, community livelihoods can improve drastically. There is a Thabalaba plant which is exportable, iron ore and many more valuable resources.
“As forestry department, we would want to see to it that communities take full ownership of the reserve. The forest benefits will be shared with them so that they feel empowered,” she explained.
The regional forestry officer further said the agreement will ease encroachment, cutting down of trees carelessly and promote afforestation.
According to the Forestry Regional Officer, the empowered communities are responsible for all transactions on the forest reserve resources with guidance from the forestry department.
“We have provided them with receipt books, rubber stamps, gumboots and other materials. We have empowered them to manage the forest and provide maximum security,” she said.
Matandwe Local Forest Reserve Board Chair, Peter Zaina noticed that what the forestry department has done will save the reserve.
“It has been our wish to have this agreement in place since it gives powers to the locals to manage the reserves. I am sure that the agreement will bare fruits and reclaim the once mighty forest reserve in Malawi,” he said.