Malawiâ€™s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management through Environment Department Affairs has tipped the people of Neno District in southern part of the country to reduce charcoal production if the district is to reverse the deteriorating forest cover in the district.
Speaking at the launch of a K12 million (about $50 000) UNDP supported Sustainable Land Management (SLM) for the Shire River Basin project in the district, Michael Makonombela, assistant director of Environment Department Affairs, said Neno and Mwanza are topping the list of districts in Malawi that produces the most charcoal, thereby losing most of its indigenous trees in the process.
Makonombela said an SLM project document survey conducted in Mwanza and Neno reveals that the two districts produces 1 374 457 and 986 988 bags of charcoal respectively per year making up a total of 2 361 445 bags annually.
“These figures are alarming and uncalled for, as this signifies that huge areas are [degraded] due to this practice,” said Makonombela, urging the community to arrest the problem. He also disclosed that government, through the SLM project, intends to introduce opportunities to reverse the wanton cutting down of trees and high uncontrollable charcoal production in the district.
The project has a number of activities to curb charcoal production and conserve environment such as reforestation, introduction of environment friendly biomass technologies, income generating activities (IGAs) such as fish farming, bee-keeping and agro-forestry activities.
The main aim of the strategies is to reverse the deteriorating environment and change the mindset of the charcoal producers so they can focus on other income-generating activities.
Not amused by wanton cutting down of trees in Neno was the district commissioner Hamisi Twabi, who urged the communities in the district to seriously participate in various environment activities in order to salvage the environmental glory in the area.
“Neno used to have a beautiful environmental canopy but now all [this beauty] is gone due to uncontrollable charcoal production which consumed a better part of the reserved trees,” said Twabi.
He sternly warned the communities to desist from this malpractice which, he claimed, leads to erratic rainfall pattern that consequently leads to poor crop yields.
According to Twabi, the SLM survey shows that people in Neno destroy a net annual area of about 3 000 hectares.
“This signifies that we are degrading the district at an alarming rate and slowly we will be creating a desert,” said an alarmed Twabi. Traditional Authority Mlauli applauded government and UNDP for the efforts to revive forests in his area saying every year people in Neno get inadequate harvest due to poor rainfall patterns.
SLM project is a four-year project being supported by UNDP in several districts including Blantyre, Balaka, Mwanza and in its first quarter of the project Neno received about K11 million (about $48 000) to help contain the environment along the Shire River Basin.