Shire valley transformation Programme to establish 10,000 hectares of forest

About 10,000 hectares of forest are expected to be established in the four districts of Neno, Chikwawa, Nsanje and Mwanza by the end of the second phase of the Shire Valley Transformation programme which runs from 2022 to 2028.

Chief Forest Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources Sabina Manda said the programme implemented as a performance-based grants scheme wants to help communities managing individual woodlots, village forest area and protected forest as business.

Speaking Tuesday during a District Executive Committee meeting, Manda said the objective of the programme is to help communities to take care of the forest and other protected areas.

“Community will be provided with funds to assist in meeting some of the cost of establishing a plantation which a farmer can chose with assistance from the department of forestry,” Manda said.

She said the programme is aimed at assisting community to establish plantations for timber and fuel wood production saying participants will receive a grant amount of approximately K400,000 per hectare to be paid in three instalments.

Across section of participants during the DEC meeting. Pic by Salome Gangire-Mana

The Chief Forest Officer said the scheme is open to all people in the participating districts who have enough land ranging from 0.5 to 500 hectares and are willing to plant trees for their own benefits.

 She said in Neno district, the programme will target areas around Lisungwi River which feeds into the Shire river with the aim of protecting government forest reserve of Neno Eastern escarpment and also Tsamba forest reserve which have been highly deforested.

She therefore asked for joint efforts from all stakeholders to help conserve Tsamba forest as the department does not have enough forest guards.

District Commissioner for Neno, Hudson Kuphanga welcomed the project saying the incentives will lure people to plant trees which have been highly removed due to charcoal burning.

He said an inquiry into Tsamba forest has established that the forest is highly deforested by people from other districts who come and camp into the forest to burn charcoal and get plucks from the trees.

“It’s a conduct which needs to be reversed. I have asked police to mobilise themselves and check with the forest guards where there is a gap because trees are still being cut yet we have the police and forest guards,” Kuphanga said.

He however said there is need to empower communities who do charcoal business with an alternative source of income like bee keeping and agriculture.

District Forest Officer for Neno Eric Mbingwane said most forests in Neno is under threat to deforestation mainly due to charcoal and timber production.

He said the district forest office usually conduct routine forest and road patrols to make sure that there are no illegal cutting down of trees in the forest.

Neno district has six forest guards against over 2,000 hectares of forest.

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