Ministry of Natural Resources launches special publications to sensitise people on negative effects of invasive alien species

* The destructive non-native plant and animal species that are deliberately imported or brought in by accident

* Which are posing as one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and livelihoods

* They can replace the native species and thus affecting the diversity of species in the environment

By Duncan Mlanjira

The Government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources & Climate Change and in collaboration with various development partners, has developed three main publications that sensitises efforts being undertaken to address invasive alien species in the country.


Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are destructive non-native plant and animal species — some of which are deliberately imported or brought in by accident — which are posing as one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and livelihoods.

The publications were launched at the joint commemorate of the 2024 International Day for Biological Diversity and the World Environment Day held at Neno Community Sports Centre on Friday.

The International Day for Biological Diversity falls on May 22 every year while the World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 and Secretary for Natural Resources & Climate Change-Administration, Richard Perekamoyo said the two events were planned to be jointly commemorated because they are related in nature; their themes are related and dates for their commemoration are closer to each other.

The joint commemoration was held under the theme ‘Be Part of the Plan. My Land, My Future’ — which “aims to raise understanding and awareness on the importance of biodiversity and sound environment management in maintaining ecological balance and providing essential services critical for human wellbeing and livelihoods”.

Perekamoyo enlightened the gathering, that included primary and secondary learners, that invasive alien species are plants or animals which are introduced in the environment accidentally or deliberately and once established they compete with the native species.

“They can replace the native species and thus affecting the diversity of species in the environment,” he said. “This may lead to loss of beneficial species of both plants and animals in the environment.

“Globally, invasive alien species are among the key drivers of biodiversity loss and hence the need to prevent their introduction and manage their spread in our environment.”

He thus said to mitigate the threat, the Ministry has developed the invasive alien species field guide — the National Invasive Species Strategy & Action Plan and the Invasive Species Pathway Analysis Study Report — which “will support rapid identification of invasive species and taking appropriate action to prevent further biodiversity loss”.

“Let me encourage you to get hold of these important knowledge products and be part of the solution in prevention, controlling and managing invasive species in Malawi.

“The field guide provide information on what species should not be planted on our land while the National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan provides guidance on actions to be taken in controlling and managing invasive species.

“Let us collaborate in the fight to eradicate these unwanted species to halt biodiversity loss and conserve our land,” he said at the event graced by Traditional Chiefs; Board chairperson of Malawi Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), Robert Kafakoma; deputy Director of Environmental Affairs, Benon Yassin; District Commissioner, Rosemary Nawasha Neno; Councillors and the young minds of the district.


In March this year, Environmental Affairs Department, in partnership with Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) and Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), brought together media practitioners to an interactive engagement in Mulanje where they unveiled the serious campaign of informing farming communities being affected by destructive non-native plant species that are infecting their farm productivity and biodiversity in order to control and eradicate its negative effects.

The media team were implored to amplify to the public that invasive alien species — dubbed locally as mulanda malo — are adversely affecting biodiversity, both locally and globally.

The community members which the media visited attested that invasive alien species are very persistent plant species that invade and threaten quite a range of habitats, as well as, indirectly, the livelihoods of millions of people depending on natural ecosystems for food, commodities and energy security.

Some of these species are very visible, that include the water hyacinth that clogged the Shire River’s approach to Liwonde Barrage, which has posed a huge and costly challenge to control or clear — rendering Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) to lose huge financial resources to manage the plant.

Tedious job to clear invasive alien species

Another is the plant found on the road approach to Nchalo Trading Centre along Illovo Sugar Malawi estate that is congested with what is locally named there as jacaranda. The road is becoming narrower due to the unattended to plant, which is very thorny and is spreading fast into many parts of Lower Shire.

The carriers are herds of cattle that feeds on its seeds and once spread, this plant become very persistent and invade farmlands and no matter how many times they are uprooted or dug out, they still grow as they have a huge network of small roots.

Not many have realised that the pine tree is an invasive alien specie that was imported a long time ago for its good timber but its repercussion is that when it drops its dry leaves, they smoother the ground surface such that no other indigenous plant grows.

In Mulanje, the journalists visited smallholder farmers of tea and pineapple in Kaponda Village in Traditional Authority Mabuka where the community members attested to how some invasive alien species are affecting their crop productivity and how costly it is to try and manage their widespread.

Some of the invasive species are native and 79-year-old farmer in Kaponda Village, Sikile Enes Phiri said he ventured into tea farming in 1967 and immediately encountered the native invasive plant locally named as Tambala, which has a long network of roots such that when the plant is uprooted, its roots still sprout out within two weeks.

Sikile Enes Phiri on his affected tea field

He added that he applies fertilizer to his 0.35 hectares of tea field and that contributes to the tambala to sprout back in such a short period of time.

It is also poses physical harm to the farmers and Enes Phiri said once they get pricked by it, the tiny thorn breaks off and gets sucked into the body and within a short period, the body part gets swollen.

“It’s a very tedious work to get rid of this plant and it involves hiring other young village folks to assist, which is costly. The fertilizer is not cheap, as you know, and coupled with labour costs, what I harvest yields very little.

“I used to earn about K293/kg but over time, since the tambala has multiplied extensively, I get half of the overall revenue per harvest,” he said.

Reservoir dam invaded by alien species

Another we visited was a lady pineapple farmer, Mayi Modester Ndemango, who showed the media what she said is locally named Thurumene, which is also another invasive specie that is greatly infesting on her and other people’s field.

She said she was earning about K20,000 per fortnight but that is cut down to half since the invasive plant greatly eats up the soil’s nutrients leaving her pineapple in stunted growth.

The invasive tambala plant species is also affecting the large tea estates which use machinery to clear time and at Mini Mini, its reservoir dam is completely clogged with what is known as Kariba weed (scientific name Salvinia molesta).


Environmental Affairs Department’s Chief Environmentalist, Boniface Chimwaza — who was the site tour’s facilitator — said the Kariba weed reproduces wickedly and the best solution is biological control using some specific weevil species.

He added that another solution of control of invasive species is using chemicals but that proves to be expensive as chemicals needed are supposed to be selective to the particular invasive plant specie while some chemicals affect other biodiversity — thus cannot be used for a specific invasive specie.

On the case of tambala plant, Chimwaza indicated that it has an advantage in that once uprooted and burned, the ash acts as fertilizer to the field, which was also attested to by tea farmer Enes Phiri.

But Chimwaza said that advantage cannot be promoted because at the same time it gives the tambala the opportunity to be persistent, thus defeating the whole idea of its control and possible triumph of eradicating it.