Community members demand revision of National Parks and Wildlife Act

* When wild animals destroy people’s fields or when they kill a person, there is nothing done to compensate them

* But when a person kills a wild animal, they are given jail sentences as long as 30 years

* People are not committed in wildlife conservation efforts as they feel oppressed by the very system they are supposed to protect

By George Mponda, MANA

Community members from areas surrounding Nyika National Park and Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve have asked government to revise the current National Parks & Wildlife Act, saying it is not serving the interests of people.

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Rumphi’s Nyika-Vwaza Association chairperson, Mary Gondwe said this on Tuesday in Karonga during a two-day stakeholder engagement plan & grievous redress mechanism workshop organised by Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area (MAZA-TFCA) project.

Gondwe said community members are of the view that the current National Parks & Wildlife Act favours animals at the expense of human beings, saying: “When wild animals destroy people’s fields or when they kill a person, there is nothing done to compensate them but when a person kills a wild animal, they are given jail sentences as long as 30 years.

“This is making it difficult for people to commit themselves to conservation efforts, as they feel oppressed by the very system they are supposed to protect.”

Gondwe said collaboration between the Department of Parks & Wildlife and the community in efforts to conserve Nyika and Vwaza Wildlife Reserves will progress well if people living around these areas are also protected by the Act.

On his part, Traditional Authority Karonga stressed the need for the provision of proper incentives to people living around the two game reserves for them to own the conservation efforts being done in these areas.

Project manager for MAZA-TFCA, George Nxumayo said the stakeholder engagement meeting was meant to provide an interactive platform for communities around Nyika National Park and Vwaza Game Reserve and other stakeholders who are interested in conservation and livelihoods of people.

“Stakeholders should expect better management of their grievances by using grievous redress mechanism in which they have been trained by the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

“In turn, this will enhance ownership and total participation in conservation efforts for Nyika and Vwaza Game Reserves,” Nxumayo said.

Nxumayo

MAZA-TFCA project is being implemented through Ministry of Tourism with funding from the German Government.

Meanwhile, Paramount Chief M’mbelwa V has admonished forestry officials in Mzimba for failing to check deforestation and encroachment of forest reserves in the district.

Speaking on Monday during the launch of Mzimba Heritage Association (MZIHA) tree planting season, M’mbelwa V said some forestry officials are reluctant to deal with poor forestry management, emphasising that such tendency has rendered efforts against deforestation futile.

“People in Mzimba work tirelessly to restore depleted environment through integrated approaches such as reforestation and afforestation,” he said. “However, due to the dormancy of forestry officials due to financial constraints and corruption, environmental degradation goes unchecked.

“In Chikangawa Forest, you will find people cutting down trees anyhow. When questioned, you will learn that they have permits which they abuse to harm the environment,” said M’mbelwa V.

M’mbelwa District Council assistant forestry officer, Staples Nyandeni said they were aware of the occurrence of environmentally degrading activities such as illegal farming and charcoal production in some of their forest reserves.

Nyandeni said the Department of Forestry remains professional in monitoring and managing forestry resources as it has intensified patrols to apprehend culprits involved in deforestation and encroachment of forest reserves in the district.

MZIHA is holding this year’s tree planting season under the theme ‘Integration of culture through restoration of forest for sustainable development’.—Additional reporting by Austine Patrice Kachilika, MANA

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