Malawi: Minister Nankhumwa Says Conserving Mountains Is Non-Negotiable

11 December 2019

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa has said mountain ecosystems are under serious threat from over-exploitation driven by poverty and rapid population growth.

Nankhumwa said there was need for coherence in message delivery Nankhumwa visiting stakeholders pavillions as MP for Mulanje Pasani Ebbie Mathanda also accompanied the minister Mountains Matter for Youth Minister Nankhumwa visiting stakeholders pavillions Minister Nankhumwa greeting Chief Mkanda of Mulanje Minister Nankhumwa having a chat: Some of the most important tourist attraction places in Malawi are found in mountains

He made the remarks at Likhubula in Mulanje where he was Guest of Honour at the official commemoration of the International Mountain Day on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.

The celebration aims to increase awareness on the importance of mountains for the health of the planet and well-being of billions of people. The United Nations (UN) established the day in 2002, as part of the International Year of Mountains, first held in 2003. The theme for this year's celebrations is "Mountains Matter for Youth".

Said Nankhumwa: "Mountains have been encroached for settlement and cultivation causing extensive deforestation. Unsustainable cultivation practices in mountainous areas have also resulted in severe land degradation leading to soil erosion and siltation of rivers and other water bodies downstream".

He said that this affects other sectors of the economy including electricity generation in the energy sector.

Nankhumwa also said that apart from the human activities, the climate change phenomenon has also compromised the role of mountain ecosystems particularly as water towers.

He said the flow of water from mountains affects agricultural production and therefore affects food security, not only for mountain communities but also for the millions other people who live in lowland areas.

He added that mountains are a great source of biodiversity and a source of livelihood.

"Mountains are the world's 'water towers', providing between 60 and 80 percent of all freshwater resources for our planet. Mountain destinations attract around 15-20 percent of global tourism and are areas of important cultural diversity, knowledge and heritage," said Nankhumwa.

He also said mountains are important centers of agricultural biodiversity and home to many of the foods that find their way to our tables.

The minister added that half of the world's biodiversity hotspots are concentrated in mountains and that mountains support approximately one-quarter of terrestrial biological diversity. This is on top of hosting ancient and indigenous communities that possess and maintain precious knowledge, traditions and languages.

Said Nankhumwa: "Three out of Malawi's four main cities are partially located near or around Mountains. Mountains contain the largest reserve for biodiversity in the country; they harbor the catchment areas of some of the major rivers in the country which are sources of water for domestic use and irrigation".

Nankhumwa gave the example of Mulanje Mountain, which he said is the catchment area of up to nine perennial rivers, which he said directly support the livelihoods of millions of people and tea estates in Mulanje and Thyolo Districts.

"Some of the most important tourist attraction places in Malawi are found in mountains including the Lengwe National Park, Lake Malawi National Park, Nyika Plateau and Mulanje Mountain. Mountains also provide an avenue to promote healthy living among the population through mountain climbing and hiking. They are also a source of energy through the establishment of Mini Electricity generation stations," said Nankhumwa.

Nankhumwa said the management development of mountain areas ought to be a multi-sectoral issue that should not be tackled by one sector.

He added that the lack of coordinated initiatives to sustainably manage mountains has led to a lack of a collective action to protect them and limited investments in mountains.

The minister said Malawi government launched the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) in 2018, which recognizes that important sectors of the economy rely on the environment and natural resources to enhance their productivity.

While applauding the efforts of some government departments and NGOs that are promoting the protection of Mountain resources, Nankhumwa said there was need for coherence in message delivery to avoid creating confusion among both extension staff and communities.

The celebrations started on December 9 with the departure of a team of hikers to Sapitwa Peak, which is the highest point on Mulanje Mountain lying at 3000 meters above sea level.

There were various activities to mark the occasion such as community artists, games, competitions, school performances and traditional dances as well as a trip to Dziwe La Nkhalamba whilst picking liter on the way as symbolism for the conservation of the environment.

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