The huge outcry over state of degradation of Michiru Nature Sanctuary has finally been heard

* As Tourism Minister Vera Kamtukule visits the forestry department-administered mountain

* We have used the law but things have not changed and it means something is missing — and that is community engagement

By Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express & Chilungamo Missi, MANA

The huge outcry over the state of degradation of Michiru Nature Sanctuary — from environmental preservation organisations such as Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), concerned passionate mountain hikers and even the Roman Catholic Church — has been heard by the authorities.


Minister of Tourism Vera Kamtukule visited the forestry department-administered mountain sanctuary which has been completely devastated by charcoal burners such that its pristine outlook, which was the attraction of passionate hikers — both by local and international tourists — is no longer there.

On her visit to the forest, the only one that was left standing in the whole of Blantyre City until of late, the Minister said she was very exasperated that the devastation has reached such depressing levels.

She described the forest as one that used to be beautiful with natural indigenous trees and at the rate it is being depleted, she appealed for community engagement to save the sanctuary from charcoal production and other human-induced environmentally unfriendly activities despite government’s efforts to save the sanctuary.

She emphasized on the need for the community engagement to save the 12-square kilometre nature sanctuary and its property in order to bring it to its lost glory of being a good tourist destination.

Kamtukule further said despite interventions put in place to preserve the sanctuary, to the extent of arresting those that depleted the forest, the malpractice continues to worsen every day.


And she stressed that it is now time to use other approaches, saying: “We have used the law but things have not changed and it means something is missing — and that is community engagement.

“We need to focus on community sensitisation so that community members should understand that if cutting down of trees are bringing food on their tables, they must think about the future of their children and the next generation which will experience adverse climate change challenges due to today’s behavior.”

She was accompanied by Forestry Department officials, including Senior Chief Kuntaja and District Commissioner (DC), Alex Mdooko, who said urbanisation has led to increased charcoal production and cutting down of trees to burn bricks for building houses in Blantyre City and surrounding areas.

Once pristine until just lately

He challenged the Ministry of Tourism to promote eco-tourism activities at the sanctuary and ensure that the surrounding communities benefit from such initiatives which will motivate them to take part in preserving the sanctuary.

On his part, Senior Chief Kuntaja acknowledged that deforestation is happening in the area but said people that indulge in the malpractice come from neighboring districts of Blantyre.

He, therefore, promised to join hands with fellow community leaders to address the situation, which he described as worrisome to citizens of Blantyre that have protected Michiru Mountain trees since 1930s when it became a protected area.

Senior Chief Kuntaja

And it’s not just Michiru Mountain that has been affected but others such as Ndirande and Soche as well as Mudi Catchment Area despite efforts every year to reafforest them.

Pictures of wanton cutting down of trees on Michiru have been shared by many concerned hikers, including video clips by WESM, which went rounds on social media — thus the Minister’s visit and concerns must be a huge relief on the concerned citizenry.

In 2021, passionate environmentalist, David wa Mufupika Juma wrote on Facebook: “Michiru Mountain battles with illegal cutting down of trees daily, and still remains one of the biggest natural forests standing in Blantyre.

Passionate mountain hiker, David wa Mufupika Juma

“Of late, it looks like the enemies of the forest have turned their anger on the pillar marking the highest point. It is incomprehensible for someone to climb for two hours-plus just to destroy the pillar.

“It had markings of the highest point, coordinates of the nearest mountains. But sadly, someone thought that was not important and took a further unfortunate step to destroy it. What was a beauty barely two months ago, is in ruins.”

And in 2022, Juma wrote: “There are no more trees to cut at the forestry administered forest, and the people are slowly encroaching the Parks and Wildlife side at Michiru Nature Sanctuary.

“The fresh air at the top is gone, all you smell is smoke from charcoal production. There is a village growing on top of the mountain. The rangers are outnumbered. The people acting with impunity.

Another affected area, Njamba Freedom Park

“I wish the security agencies worked together, the rangers, forestry, police, and probably the army. Maybe deploy the officers as they did in Chikangawa.

“There is no chance for civic education, it will just be a waste of more time. It’s time some people paid for their actions. My heart is bleeding. The remaining standing forest in Blantyre has never been at risk of extinction than it is now.”

While just last week, Juma said: “There is a high probability that every picture we took in the past at Michiru, was the last with trees standing.

“The rangers have been overpowered, the police have come but they are a drop in the ocean. Something bigger, decisive — without mercy for the perpetrators — must happen.


“Diplomacy and light force have failed. Please help spread the word. Michiru Nature Sanctuary faces extinction. Who will be affected the most? Where will all the snakes migrate to if not to the surrounding areas.

“The hyenas, may feed on your pets. The monkeys will feast in your gardens. When all the trees are gone, the landslides will end up in Chilomoni, Chileka, Chilimba. And your grandchildren will have to see the indeginous trees only in books. Kodi how does one declare a crisis?”

In 2019, when Roman Catholic’s Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa presided over a tree planting exercise at Michiru Mountain that was organised by Catholic Development Commission (Cadecom), he asked the country’s legislators in Parliament to enact tough laws to deal with people caught in wanton illegal cutting of trees to address the serious issue of deforestation the country is facing.

Archbishop Msusa said: “We have to be serious with this because despite all efforts to reforest as we are doing today, people come back and cut them down once they regrow.

“Also bear in mind that each one of us has contributed towards deforestation through the charcoal we buy which encourage the tree poachers to continue cutting down trees. There is a need to find an alternative to charcoal.”

Present at the exercise were Senior Chiefs, Ntaja and Machinjiri, as well as Chilomoni Group Village Headwoman, whom Msusa asked them to impress on their subjects to plant trees around their homes and gardens.

“You chiefs wield a lot of power and respect amongst your subjects. Whatever you tell them, they always follow. Please, inspire the people to replace the trees they cut down by planting two or more.

“Where there is idle land, they should plant trees which one day they shall harvest,” the Archbishop had said.

Also present were pupils from Chilomoni Catholic Primary School, who were involved in the tree planting to inculcate on them the culture of environmental preservation and Nsusa impressed on them to take with them one seedling and plant at their homes.

“It’s exciting and fun to watch a tree you planted grow into a huge tree,” he had encouraged the young minds. “As you are planting, impress on your parents the need to conserve our forests.”

Michiru Nature Sanctuary is treated as Blantyre Diocese’s shrine where the Roman Catholic Church hold The Way of the Cross while many of their church members visit the shrine to hold their own personal prayers.