By Duncan Mlanjira
In its bid to raise the bar in the awareness campaign towards the conservation of the environment and ecosystem of the pristine Zomba Plateau, Zomba Forest Lodge has sponsored a local youth village hip-hop band, The Dreamers, and a church choir, Maguba Salvation Singers to record songs on this initiative.
Zomba Forest Lodge administers a conservation project called The Reforestation of the Environment and Ecosystem of Zomba (TREEZ) that started a few years ago, to arrest the massive degradation of Zomba Plateau from wanton cutting of trees and uncontrolled bushfires in the natural habitat areas.
“Zomba Plateau is primarily a commercial pine plantation but there are also areas of natural habitat which have been degraded over the years,” says owner of Zomba Forest Lodge Tom Inch, who runs the project with his wife Petal.
“We aim to concentrate our efforts in the water catchment areas to help preserve the water sources for the hundreds of thousands of people who live in and around the Zomba City and who depend on the mountain.
“Malawi has lost 85% of its trees in the last 30 years, and at current rates of population growth and deforestation, by 2030 we will no longer have enough biofuel to sustain the population. This is a very real problem, especially in Zomba.
“Deforestation has a direct impact on water resources. Without trees not only will there be a direct reduction in rainfall, but also the rains when they do come will simply be washed away and take away topsoil.”
On the measures put in place to make sure of the sustainability of the trees, Inch said planting is pointless unless if not protected as the seedlings need constant maintenance throughout the rainy season and protection during the dry season.
“We try to involve the local community that we are in as much as possible in our conservation efforts. Music is a great way to spread a positive message, so that’s why we thought of it.
“All the songs were recorded at a local studio in Zomba and we share the music for free as a way of spreading the message. If ultimately, say the Bright Dreamers, find fame and fortune and have a smash hit, we will be more than happy for them.
“We have sponsored an environmental awareness concert which involved seven local schools in which each was to write and perform a song carrying an environmental awareness message and was judged by Malawian musicians.
“The winning song was recorded and played on community and national radio stations.
“We also sponsor local football and netball clubs in return for conservation work and employ various community groups throughout the year to help carry out the different jobs.
“We have also helped develop community woodlots, fruit orchards and agroforestry planting around maize gardens together with village headmen.”
“Half of Zomba TREEZ’s funds are devoted to fire prevention and firefighting efforts. We have partnered with Nankhunda Transformation, a local conservation project led by Jonas Beyard.”
Alongside the TREEZ project is another awareness and fundraising event that started last year, the Run 4 Reforestation half marathon along the trails of Zomba Plateau whose second edition was held on September 7 sponsored by Old Mutual, CFAO, Pick-A-Part, Energem Malawi and hosted by Sunbird Ku Chawe.
The aim of the race is also to raise funds towards enhancing the conservation and reforestation awareness campaigns, which include sponsoring the campaign songs and replanting of trees in the natural habitat.
“Planting can only be done in the rainy season but the extent of the planting will depend on the maturity of the seedlings that the funds from last year’s race have paid for.
“A large portion of the funds from last year’s Run 4 Reforestation have paid for the creation and maintenance of a non-pine tree nursery on the Plateau. The remainder of those funds went into fire prevention efforts on and around the Plateau.”
Also on the menu during and after the races, Zomba Forestly Lodge organised a free family gathering called Sustainability Fair at Sunbird Ku Chawe where on exhibition will be about all things eco-friendly, sustainable food and tree saving-culture talks.