Government still talks of pledge to recruit more forestry rangers than recruitment itself

Women game rangers but few that are available

* Government is still planning to recruit 300 game rangers as said by Director of Forestly this week

* Last May Minister Nancy Tembo had said the 300 targeted rangers were just a start

* As every year more will be employed to seriously conserve and protect the environment

By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza, Contributor & Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

Five months since Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo that Government is planning to recruit 300 game rangers to help in reinforcing laws to protect the country’s forest reserves and wildlife from degradation, it is still just but talk.



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In May, during familiarization tour of Phirilongwe Forest Reserve in Mangochi — which was badly degraded due to wanton cutting down of trees for charcoal burning — Minister Tembo took cognizance that it is due to understaffing of game rangers to reinforce the law around the reserve and that of elsewhere across the country.

She had pledged that the 300 targeted rangers are just a start as every year the Ministry will be employing more as one way of seriously conserving and protecting the environment.

Current state of Phirilongwe Forest Reserve

This week, five months later, Government is still talking of the recruitment and not how many have been identified so far.

During a Southern Region liquified petroleum gas (LPG) prospective traders meeting in Blantyre, director of forestry in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Conservation, Clement Chilima also reiterated the pledge.

He was answering a question from a participant that the LPG usage in the country could not be properly scaled up amidst the rampant charcoal production, which was deemed to be cheaper and easily accessible by the populace.

Chilima expressed hope that the recruitment of the new staff would go a long the way to increase the uptake of LPGs as well as decreasing the rampant deforestation rate for charcoal and fuel production, therefore, reducing the negative impacts of climate change phenomena in the country.

Thriving charcoal business

“One of the problems that has led to an increase in deforestation and charcoal production is the shortage of staff,” he said. “We, therefore, plan to start training over 300 forest assistants and 140 forest rangers shortly this year to help in addressing and apprehending the perpetrators.”

Current estimates indicate that the country’s uptake of LPG is at 1% while deforestation rate is at 2.5%.

However, Chilima said government has set up various measures to upscale preference of LPGs than charcoal usage.

Partnership with Super Brains General Dealers

In December last year, Minister Tembo partnered with Super Brains General Dealers as part of her Ministry’s charcoal substitution efforts by promoting alternative energies and technologies for cooking which Malawians can afford.

Super Brains General Dealers visited her office in Lilongwe to introduce their LPG products comprising of super mbaula and deep fryer.

While last May, Tembo told the media that charcoal burning business was being influenced by “some bad apples that are colluding with the charcoal burners to circumvent the law”.

Tembo condemned the syndicate, saying government would ensure that the said cycle was broken and that culprits are brought to book.

Nancy Tembo during her visit in Mangochi

She also disclosed that Phirilongwe was amongst some forest reserves in eight countries in the world listed to benefit from UN and World Bank’s Landscape Restoration Programme.

She assured people around Phirilongwe that the UN and World Bank Program would have a component aimed at empowering them to improve their economic status.

“The project will be implemented through FAO and communities will be engaged in economic activities such as tree planting and bee keeping.

Much needed patrols

“We are sure that these activities will empower the people and distract them from venturing into charcoal burning,” she had said.

Phirilongwe Forest Reserve was first gazetted in 1924 as a protected area and it has a total estimated area of 16,121 hectares — commonly populated with Miombo woodland, according to Mangochi District Forestry Officer, Leonard Kamangadazi.

The Forest is situated on the South Western side of Mangochi District, stretching, from Chimvuu in Senior Chief Nankumba area to Bwanje in Ntcheu and it borders with Balaka District in the southern part.

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