Revenue is collected from sales of trees and fuel wood, as well as rentals and permits issued to plantation operators - the loggers.
A report made two years ago by Malawi's auditor general revealed that the government had lost at least MK344 million (about $2.1 million at the time) in uncollected revenue from operators and the cost of fire damage.
However, Zangazanga contradicted the report at a public event held in Mzuzu, arguing that Viphya's operators have contributed significant revenue to the government via the Reserve Bank of Malawi. "It has been difficult for government to plough back resources for [Viphya's] rehabilitation. Over the years, they have been very little replanting but so much cutting," he said.
The Auditor General's report disclosed that most operators do not meet basic environmental requirements. An estimated 75% of operators failed to create environmental plans, and none had reforestation plans, save for Raiply.
For Viphya's rapidly diminishing tree cover, dotting the plantation like tragic amputees on a battlefield, help cannot come soon enough.
Collins Mtika is a member of FAIR - Forum for African Investigative Reporters, a pan-African organisation of investigative journalists, and has participated in the Thomson Reuters Foundation/Norad training programme in economic and financial reporting. This article was originally published by The Africa Report.