Machinga, February 23: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management and three Forest Co-management Blocks in Machinga have signed a five year agreement to work together in management and protection of Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde forest reserves.
The signing ceremony took place Thursday at Likwenu Primary School in Machinga where Nkalo, Dalamponda and Mtamira forest blocks signed their management plans as part of their commitment to manage the forest blocks in collaboration with the Government through district forestry office in Machinga.
Chief Economist in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Frank Kamanga said government is committed to working together with communities in managing the Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde forest reserves to ensure that they are managed to sustain livelihoods of the communities.
He said co-management of forests is a government initiative which is being supported by the European Union through Improved Forest Management for Sustainable Livelihood Programme.
Kamanga therefore commended the European Union for supporting the government in poverty reduction as communities are privileged to ‘responsibly’ sell forest products such as timber, firewood, grass, bamboos and mushrooms to sustain forest management and to support community based initiatives such as orphan caring.
The Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde forest Reserves are divided into 26 forest blocks which are expected to operate through forest management plans which is based on collaboration of government and community in managing the forest reserves.
The government entered into agreement (co-management) with Nkalo block of Traditional Authority Nkula in Machinga which manages a block part of Zomba and Malosa forest reserves.
The agreement can be terminated if the two parties fail to abide by its statutes as government is required to provide extension services while the communities’ roles and responsibilities are to protect the reserves against deforestation and other forest malpractices.
The signing ceremony also saw Dalamponda block of Traditional Authority Nsanama and Mtamira block of Traditional Authority Mlomba entering into agreement with government to manage parts of Liwonde forest reserve.
According to the District Forestry Officer for Machinga, Paul Muhosha, Nkalo, Dalamponda, Mtawira and Chindenga are the only blocks out of the 26 which have block management plans signed.
Ndaje and Matandika forest blocks are heavily affected by deforestation due to increasingly charcoal production such that their blocks have not yet entered into any agreement with the government to co-manage their blocks, according to Machinga District Forest Office.
European Union started supporting the Improved Forrest Management for Sustainable Livelihood Programme in Machinga from 2006 when the programme trained communities in nursery and forest management as part of community empowerment to manage forest reserves alongside the forest offices.
The European Union technical Advisor, Allister Anthony said he was impressed with the co-management of forests in Machinga as this demonstrated community commitment and participation towards forest management.
Traditional Authority Mlomba deplored deforestation which he said is a setback to the forest co- management and water supply as Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde forest reserves are sources of rivers which are part of gravity fed schemes.
He therefore called on government and the block communities to abide by the signed agreement to ensure sustainable forest management.
The Nkalo block community pledged to work in collaboration with the district forest office to ensure the co-management lives for their benefit.
Block committee member, Jonathan Kapala said the block committee and villagers will abide by the co-management plans which give room to penalties in case of forest mismanagement and other malpractices such as charcoal production.
He therefore asked the district forest office to continue providing extension service to the block to make Nkalo the most successful block in the Zomba-Malosa forest reserve.
The Nkalo block is next to Zomba blocks which are almost bare due to high rate of deforestation in the recent past years due to charcoal production and unlawful timber sawing.