TrustMedia (London)

Malawi: Logging and Deforestation - Malawi's Diminishing Plantations

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An estimated 33,000 hectares was held for licensed Malawian loggers for sustainable harvesting. And Eric Zangazanga, Viphya's manager, said a replantation drive was ongoing in an attempt to halt ecological degradation.

"We want to reverse the situation because a lot more hectares are harvested but only few trees are replanted. If the trend is left like that, this is very likely to affect the timber business in future," he told local media.

Meanwhile, Ben Botolo, from the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, claimed: "We want to turn our Plantations into major sources of income. As such, we will be harvesting and quickly replenishing the harvested land."

The creation of the FMD was promoted by Botolo and Zangazanga as proof that depleted plantations across the country need to be revived. As much as 60 million trees are expected to be planted in 2013 alone. And according to Botolo, only early maturing trees, available for harvest within 15 years, would be planted.

But during several trips to the site in question, such as Luwawa, Chikangawa, Champhoyo and Lusangazi, there was little evidence of activity.

Aggressive logging activity, however, was obvious: Logging camps dotted the landscape at regular, hastily erected small trapezium wooden shacks adjacent to newly razed forest areas. Plumes of smoke emanated from the hills.

Trucks loaded with timber, en-route to Capitol Hill in Lilongwe or the Northern city of Mzuzu sped by every few minutes. Some would travel across the borders to countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Invasive activity

The ecological impact of invasive foreign plants on indigenous ground is well known. The same occurs with non-Malawians invasively seeking to access the 33,000 hectares held for local licensed Malawians.

Unlike other sectors, such as mining, fisheries, tourism, financial services and manufacturing, timber harvesting is not a sector where the government provides foreign investors with a business license.

Chilunga claimed that government would enact a law barring foreign entities from Viphya. A number of loggers accessing the portion of Viphya held for local loggers were foreign, operating under Malawian managers, and even falsely operating under Malawian names, inquiries revealed.

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