Blantyre — Blantyre District Council says it intends to plant over 30 million tree seedlings before the end of this year's national tree planting season.
Blantyre District Commissioner (DC), Bennet Nkasala made the announcement on Saturday at the launch of the district's tree planting exercise in the area of Village Headman Sabantini in Senior Chief Kunthembwe's area.
He said Blantyre was one of the districts that have, for several years, been heavily affected by flash floods, droughts as well dry spells, observing that such trend were as a result of careless cutting down of trees.
The DC pointed out that time has come for the council to cover all its bare grounds and restore the lost glory.
"Depletion of natural resources especially forests has had severe effects to the district, with reduced crop production both at family and district level being very evident. Due to this, we resolved to take an active role in re-afforestation activities to alleviate some of the challenges experienced as a result of climate change," Nkasala said.
"Blantyre is taking a different approach in as far as tree planting is concerned, apart from planting trees, we are also encouraging forest regeneration," he added.
Nkasala explained that apart from government and other development partners taking a leading role in the exercise, the council has deliberately engaged the community in view of the fact such an initiative was crucial to ensuring growth and survival of the trees.
"Experience has it that each time government and other agencies plant trees, most of the trees have not been properly taken care of. People pay very little attention because they think the trees and forests belong to government," he said.
"We would like to change that kind of thinking and the only way to achieve that is by involving the community and ensure they take an active role in protecting the planted trees and regenerated forests," Nkasala emphasized.
Senior Chief Kunthembwe expressed the need for more trees to be planted in a bid to mitigate effects of climate change such as drought and dry spells.
"Blantyre is one of the districts that were well known for agriculture due to good rainfall, but things have since changed whereby in the past five years, we experienced insufficient rains for our agricultural production. This is a worrisome development and I hope we should be able to reverse the situation," the Chief said.
Kunthembwe assured that he would mobilize his subjects to plant more trees to achieve the set targets. He also said the area development committee would formulate by-laws that would stop people from cutting down trees wantonly.
Blantyre District Forestry Officer, Geoffrey Kanyerere said at least a total of 800 hectares of land would be covered during the tree planting season, noting that to ensure that trees survive, the forestry sector would intensify supervision and engage the community on a regular basis.
"Last year, 69 percent of the trees that were planted survived and we hope to have an increase this year," he said.
Every year, from December 15 to April 15, the country observes a national tree planting season with the aim of dressing depleted forests.
President Prof. Peter Mutharika launched the season in Mwanza on December 18, 2017.