By Duncan Mlanjira
A passionate private seedlings developer, Mapopa William Banda, says reafforestation efforts in Malawi are being thwarted due to poor care after planting trees because concentration is usually on planting seedlings that have only been nurtured in the nursery for just 3 to 6 months.
He said Malawi will only succeed in the afforestation battle if people concentrate on planting tree saplings — those that are over a year old because they are quite developed as compared to seedlings.
“There should be deliberate forestry policies that ensure protection of trees planted, say monetary inducements to those keeping forests intact for a good part of some years,” said William Banda, who have had passion for trees and flora since childhood.
“Malawians only tout tree planting exercises but once done they never go back to check on their efforts.
“We can bellow out that we have planted 5 million trees but after just one year, only 900,000 would have survived — that’s where we go all wrong in our noble efforts in reafforestation.”
William Banda, born in Zomba to a Malawian couple of Tonga origin, never did any forestry courses but just had passion for it from childhood.
He started his primary school in 1975 and went to Nkhata Bay and Livingstonia Secondary Schools.
Thereafter, he did marketing (Chartered Institute of Marketing) at the Polytechnic Management Centre and has a Diploma in Marketing (CIM).
He has worked in several companies in sales & marketing departments and then deviated to structural installations with Alliance Media with which he has worked in Malawi, Tanzania and Botswana.
“I have had passion for Flora since childhood. I get so fascinated to see something grow from what seemingly look to be a dormant origin (seed) to a gigantic being (tree) and able to sustain fauna livelihood.
“I also have an inborn liking of nature and started growing tree seedlings in pots (planting tubes) in 2009 while working at Hisco Limited.
“We had a huge M’bawa tree in the vicinity of our neighborhood and they used to drop seeds and during the rainy season the seeds would sprout.
“It’s from the seedlings gotten from there that I started uprooting and replanting in plastic tubes.”
From 2009, William Mapopa has increased his production from a home nursery to two nurseries that have a myriad of plant types from indigenous to exotic forestry tree seedlings/saplings to fruits, bananas, nut trees, culinary herbs and expanding into vegetable seedlings.
“I have two nurseries, one at Ngumbe near the MBC transmitter where I employed one person to mostly keep guard, water and sell the plants. It’s a rented place and it’s almost 50×25 metres
“I was fortunate enough to find another place which is a friend’s plot and I am just using it to keep his land secure. This place in situated near Catholic Institute (CI) in Sunnyside on Beaton Road.
“It’s quite a good sized plot and I am also doing most types of forestry, fruit, vegetables etc.”
He says this is his full-time engagement and he enjoys what he does and also keeps his livelihood afloat.
“I am a father of 3, aged between 22 and 16 and through this business I am able to send two to colleges and one is in high school.”
How does he get to be known by clients: “With my 23 years’ work experience, I have known loads of people and my marketing targets these people I was interacting with during my working days.
“I started this venture with not much experience but passion, determination, drive and willingness to learn has kept me going.
“The beauty of this occupation is that I earn a living out of what I love doing. This gives me the drive to go on and also complimenting my faith that patience is a virtue.
“Most people have found themselves in problems because of lack of patience. Growing plants from seed needs your utmost patience — to wait for seed to germinate, nurture the plant until it is ready to be planted in the field.”
He says he sources some plant seeds locally while others he import through eBay.
“My passion is to increase awareness of the goodness of planting local varieties but catering for a wide horizon of clients. I bring in exotic varieties to fullfil their wishes.”
William Banda is always passionate to deliver good services and in turn he has also been charitable by setting aside some tree seedlings each year to donate to schools and institutions that pursue reafforestation efforts.
“Last growing season, I donated around 3,500 seedlings, which translate into K350,000 in money terms from my small nursery.”
What’s his future plans: “To acquire a retirement plot where I will build my retirement home, continue with this business, add some orchard, green houses and plant vegetables on commercial basis.”