Charcoal vendors need to be empowered with alternative source of economic livelihood

By Duncan Mlanjira

Most parts of the country, especially the rural areas, are bare of trees because they are being rampantly cut down and converted into charcoal wood fuel and to curb this social ill, there a need to find alternative ways to economically empower people who depend on this thriving charcoal business.

The gathering

This was said by non-governmental organization (NGO), Go Green’s national coordinator Lawrence Kafere at a tree planting exercise it organised in conjunction with Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM) at Kachakanga Primary School in Chileka, Blantyre on Wednesday.

Kafere said it is a matter of great concern that despite concerted efforts to replace trees, they are still being cut down even when they are not fully grown because of the high demand for charcoal in the urban areas.

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He pledged that the NGO, which has on board dedicated environmental conservation volunteers, will concentrate their efforts in the Southern Region and Chileka in particular to make sure the area is covered well with tree cover.

Then the communities that shall have well covered woodlots shall be empowered to engage into a more lucrative business of bee keeping farming.

The tree planting exercise

“Other parts of the country have realized that forests and woodlots can be a source of income generation through bee keeping farming that produces honey,” he said.

“Honey business is much rewarding than charcoal because a small bottle can cost as much as K3,000.

“But when you compare the trouble one goes through to produce charcoal and its benefits, it shall inspire the communities to go for more tree planting in order to produce the more lucrative honey.”

He added that despite Go Green’s efforts to help elect security roadblocks leading from Chileka to the urban Blantyre, the unscrupulous vendors still create alternative unmarked routes to their markets.

MP Kaneka after planting his tree

“So we decided that instead of blocking them off, we should find them at their source and try as much as possible to inspire them to try the alternative of raising forests for possible bee keeping.

“And on top of that, the same forests they will be maintaining shall be the people’s source of their wood fuel as well as for sale,” Kafere said.

ESCOM’s Senior Administration & Logistics Manager, Emmilius Kandapo said they expect to plant over 7,000 trees this season, of which 1,000 had already been planted at their various office premises.

ESCOM’s Emmilius Kandapo planting a tree

“We have reserved 4,000 for this area’s Chigumukire and Kachakanga primary schools while 2,000 are for Go Green for their community forest exercise in this area.

“We have carried out this initiative in line with the launch of the tree planting season which was done by President Arthur Peter Mutharika on December 18.

“We are in the same line that deforestation is affecting climate change and we are also taking part in the national climate change management policy which the government set up in 2016.”

T/A Kuntaja planting his tree

He disclosed that ESCOM’s partnership with Go Green shall continue for Chileka after making an assessment of this pilot phase.

The senior learners of both Chigumukire and Kachakanga primary schools will also be given tree seedlings for them to plant around their homes and Kafere urged them that at some point they shall be inspected to assess if they shall have taken very good care of them.

In his remarks, Member of Parliament for Blantyre West Constituency, Isaac Kaneka urged the learners that it is up to their generation to inculcate tree planting spirit.

Comedy drama was part of awareness campaign

“So take care of the trees and do not always wait until official exercises such as these for you to think of planting trees — always do so at your own accord and sooner than later you shall realize its benefits,” said Kaneka, who travellled all the way from Parliament sitting in Lilongwe to grace the occasion.

“This is our home and when I heard what Escom is doing, I tried my best to come from Parliament to attend this event. If the President himself can come out of the State House to plant a tree, we should also follow suit.”

Also present was Traditional Authority (T/A) Kuntaja, Councillor Sigere Pemba Kasasi (Chilangoma Ward) and group village headmen, Solomon, Malizani and Nkata.

T/A Kuntaja

T/A Kuntaja said he decided to join the initiative in order to inspire the learners that the onus of keep the environment is on the youth because the older citizens are the ones cutting them.

“The world is God’s garden and He gave it to us to make good use and to take care of by replacing what we have used for future use.

“The Government cannot do everything for us but we must also take the responsibility ourselves.

“We must make sure that the trees we plant should not die in their infancy and we must not cut down for domestic use trees that are too young,” he said.

Event spiced by comedy drama by parents of the community and poetry recital, music by school kids — all talking against careless cutting of trees